Balz Frei

From the Director

Balz Frei, Ph.D.
Professor of Biochemistry & Biophysics
Director and Endowed Chair
Linus Pauling Institute

The Linus Pauling Institute held its second international conference on “Diet and Optimum Health” last May in Portland, Oregon. The conference featured prominent speakers in the fields of oxidative stress and the role of vitamins, micronutrients, and phytochemicals (plant chemicals that may affect health) in preventing cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, eye diseases, and diabetes, and modulating the aging process. Of particular interest was the public session, with popular talks on how foods, supplements, and lifestyle modifications can help prevent cancer, heart disease, obesity, and other health problems. A highlight of the conference was the award banquet for the second “LPI Prize for Health Research,” consisting of $50,000 and a medal. About 265 scientists from around the world attended the conference, and the public session attracted an additional 150 people from the Portland area. This Research Report contains a brief summary of each of the talks presented at the Conference and a description of the major research accomplishments of Harvard University’s Dr. Walter Willett, the recipient of the 2003 LPI Prize for Health Research.

LPI also held its annual retreat in August, a two-day event where each laboratory presents its latest work, and future research directions and goals are discussed. It was gratifying to see that the Institute’s scientists continue to make significant progress towards elucidating the function of micronutrients and phytochemicals in disease prevention and providing new insights into diet and lifestyle modifications to optimize health. Beginning on page 7 of this Research Report, you will find a complete listing of all publications by LPI scientists over the past two years and brief summaries of a few that might be of interest to you. As you will see, LPI scientists have been very productive.

Also contained in this Research Report is an article on multivitamin supplements, which complements LPI’s Micronutrient Information Center, available on-line and as a book, An Evidence-Based Approach To Vitamins and Minerals. The article describes the health benefits of some specific vitamins and minerals contained in a “multi,” as well as how to read supplement labels. An issue that continues to cause confusion is the difference between the Daily Value (DV) of a vitamin or mineral, as listed on supplement and food labels, and the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) or Adequate Intake (AI). This article will help you sort through this confusion and make an informed choice when buying a multivitamin supplement.

Joe Beckman I also have some excellent news to share. The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently notified LPI that our grant application “Center of Excellence for Research on Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CERC) AntioxidantTherapies” was approved for funding. We submitted this grant last spring in response to a program announcement by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), a Center belonging to NIH, to establish two new CERCs in the U.S. This grant will support research in the laboratories of LPI faculty Drs. Joseph Beckman, Tory Hagen and myself for the next 5 years. Tory HagenDr. Beckman’s goal is to find a combination of antioxidant therapeutic modalities to slow or halt the progression of Lou Gehrig’s disease. He will investigate whether lipoic acid, zinc, and EDTA chelation therapy modulate disease progression in transgenic animals. Dr. Hagen’s project is an extension of his previous work to understand the role and mechanism of lipoic acid in reversing age-related changes in cellular function and improving cellular and the body’s resistance to toxicological and oxidative insults. Finally, my project will investigate the effects and mechanisms of lipoic acid and metal chelation in atherosclerosis and heart disease, using cell culture and transgenic animals. The overall goal of the program is to provide the essential knowledge about the efficacy and safety of these complementary therapies that will form the basis for future human intervention studies. We are extremely pleased to get this grant from NCCAM, which will complement the other multi-million dollar grant that was recently awarded by the National Cancer Institute to LPI faculty Drs. George Bailey, David Williams, and Rod Dashwood to investigate the role of tea, chlorophyll, and other phytochemicals in cancer chemoprevention.

Last updated November, 2003

Micronutrient Research for Optimum Health

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