Ask Dr. Zarkov

I recently saw a news article in which vitamin D was suggested for preventing Swine Flu.

Q:I recently saw a news article in which vitamin D was suggested for preventing Swine Flu. Is there any basis for this idea? Should I use vitamin D instead of getting a flu shot?
A:There is a lot of excitement in the medical world about vitamin D as a preventative — or even as a treatment! — for a wide variety of problems, including infectious diseases such as influenza and colds. The basic idea is as follows:

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I’ve been using Metazene for a little over a week, twice daily on my face.

Q:I’ve been using Metazene for a little over a week, twice daily on my face. The results I’m seeing so far are amazing! The redness and irritation of my facial skin (from a long-running case of seborrheic dermatitis compounded with light-to-moderate acne) have almost totally vanished, and the texture has smoothed out quite a bit. Even the acne is disappearing…

So this brings me to a rather pointed question about Metazene. I’ve used aloe vera gel on my skin before and never had results like these, so I know it must indeed be whatever you are putting into the Metazene as the active ingredient, which you claim is the nicotinamide/niacinamide variant of vitamin B3. Is this truly what you’re using in Metazene, or are you using something else, something that maybe you’re not supposed to?

A:As stated on the label of the bottle, Metazene has three active ingredients:


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Huperzine A (LifeLink brand: Knoitol™) is used as a treatment for Alzheimer’s

Q:Huperzine A (LifeLink brand: Knoitol™) is used as a treatment for Alzheimer’s Disease and other degenerative diseases of the brain. Is it also useful for improving memory or other mental skills in people with normal brain function?

A:Nearly all huperzine research has been focused on its potential for treating Alzheimer’s Disease, but there have been a small number of studies of its effects on the ‘normal’ brain — that is, in people and laboratory animals without degenerative neurological diseases. We should also bear in mind that a large amount of informal data has been collected through the traditional use of the herb in which huperzine is found — Chinese Club Moss has been used for centuries as a medical remedy for such ailments as rheumatism, colds, and circulation problems.

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I keep hearing about a drug called ‘resveratrol’ on TV and in magazines and newspapers.

Q:I keep hearing about a drug called ‘resveratrol’ on TV and in magazines and newspapers. It supposedly prevents heart disease and stops the aging process. Claims like this have been made about lots of other products for many, many years, but mostly they have turned out to be a lot of hype. Is there any reason to think that resveratrol is any different? What does it really do?

A:While it’s true that the supplement industry sometimes promotes products whose benefits fall far short of the claims made for them, resveratrol is not one of those. It really is different. Much of what sounds like ‘hype’ is actually the enthusiasm of medical researchers finding its way into promotional materials created by supplement companies. Resveratrol, and related compounds found in grapes and other plants, have shown remarkable abilities to interfere with processes responsible for cancer and age-related illnesses. So great is the interest in these substances that a search of the medical literature on resveratrol turns up more than 2500 research studies, most of them published in the past four years.

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I saw a news article recently about vitamin D being an anti-cancer vitamin.

Q:I saw a news article recently about vitamin D being an anti-cancer vitamin. Is there much truth in this idea, or is it just wishful thinking? If vitamin D really is an anti-cancer vitamin, what is the best dosage to use?

A:Yes, Vitamin D really is a cancer-prevention vitamin, and it appears to be a very good one. Vitamin D is also an excellent bone-strength enhancer. Let us look at the evidence for both of these claims.

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I am 14 years old and I’m getting a lot of pimples.

Q:I am 14 years old and I’m getting a lot of pimples. My mom says I should just wash my face a lot with strong soap. But that doesn’t seem to be helping at all. So I did a Google search and came up with Metazene on your website. How good is Metazene, and how does it work?

A:Your mother’s approach to treating acne is the one used in the 19th Century. While soap and water can help the skin in some ways, it is useless for preventing acne. Soap and water do not reach the places in the skin where the problem arises.

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I am a long-time user of Red Yeast Rice which I use to control my cholesterol.

Q:I am a long-time user of Red Yeast Rice which I use to control my cholesterol. I’ve never used statin drugs. Recently I learned from a Wikipedia article that Red Yeast Rice is under attack by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration because of its cholesterol-lowering properties. The article implied that RYR may be removed from the market at any time. How does RYR compare with statin drugs in effectiveness, safety, and cost? Should I be worried about my supply of RYR being cut off?

A:A quick answer is that Red Yeast Rice (RYR, aka ‘Red Rice Yeast’) contains more than half a dozen substances that act like statin drugs. These, together with several other yeast-generated substances, regulate cholesterol levels more effectively and safely than do the single-substance statin drugs sold by pharmaceutical companies. The cost of using statin drugs varies tremendously, depending on dosage and brand, but they are always more expensive than RYR — sometimes incredibly so.

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My father-in-law is showing signs of Alzheimer’s Disease,

Q:My father-in-law is showing signs of Alzheimer’s Disease, and his doctor has told him that even the most effective drugs available won’t do much for him. He has my father-in-law on galantamine; and, as predicted, it seems to be almost worthless. So I’m looking for alternatives. In July 2006 Dr. Zarkov wrote an article for LifeLink that discussed curcumin supplements and their activity against this disease. Would it be possible to get an update on this and other anti-Alzheimer’s substances?

A:This is a good time for an update because there has been an upsurge in curcumin research during the past year. I’ll discuss curcumin and several other substances, each of which affects Alzheimer’s Disease in a different way. Together they have a potential for acting synergistically, which would give the combination a greater impact than would be expected from their individual actions.


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I see that LifeLink’s huperzine-A product has been reformulated and renamed ‘Knoitol’

Q:I see that LifeLink’s huperzine-A product has been reformulated and renamed ‘Knoitol’ (how cute: ‘Know-it-all’). For years I have occasionally used LifeLink’s original huperzine supplement as a cognitive enhancer. It seemed to be somewhat helpful for my memory (though not dramatically so). The new dosage is four times as high as the old one. Why the change? Is it known to be more effective at this higher dosage?

A:LifeLink’s original formulation (50 mcg huperzine-A per capsule) was based on what was widely known in the 1990s — that the average person can see modest improvements in memory function at that dosage. What was not widely known at that time was that in China researchers were running clinical trials using huperzine-A to treat Alzheimer’s disease. The results of these studies were mostly ignored outside of China until recently.


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Breast cancer runs in my family, so I’m looking for preventatives.

Q:Breast cancer runs in my family, so I’m looking for preventatives. I notice that LifeLink sells indole-3-carbinol (I3C) — an anti-cancer nutritional supplement. The Oregon State University website has an interesting page about it, but their pro-and-con discussion leaves me unsure whether to include I3C in my anti-cancer regimen. What is your opinion?

A:In my opinion, I3C has a lot more going for it than the LPI’s review would suggest. I don’t give medical advice in this column, but I will tell you what I know about this supplement.

The website you mentioned — at Oregon State University — is the website of the Linus Pauling Institute (LPI). I was surprised to see how lukewarm LPI’s review of I3C was, in view of the fact that I3C is usually regarded as being among the two or three most exciting and promising anti-cancer substances known today.

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