Friday, November 16, 2012

Science Round-Up Seconds: Vitamin E Succinate, How It's Extracted from Barley Leaves, Kills Cancer, Ramps up Growth Hormone & Spikes Prolactin. Plus: Testostosterone & Thyroid Hormone Decline Due To Plyometrics & HIIT

Regardless of all the hypocritical hoopla around his persona, Lance Armstrong has always been able to push himself like no one else. No wonder that intense plyometrics were part of his regimen.
If the SuppVersity Science Round Up was a meal, I guess you could say that Carl Lanore and I were sort of gluttonous, yesterday (click here to download the podcast, if you have not already done so). We almost raced from one topic to another and therefore all the good stuff from the list is gone already and I am a bit pressed on time to get some "private life" in, so that I am not psyched about the idea of writing about auxiliary stuff.

Against that background and in view of the fact that I felt that the pace of yesterday's show did not really leave enough room for some important details, I will stick to rehashing and expanding on the stories about Vitamin E succcinate and the detrimental effects of beating the crap out of yourself doing plyometrics or crazy HIIT workouts (too regularly), in today's installment of the SuppVersity Science Round-Up Seconds.

Let's see. Why don't we start at the end of yesterday's show?
  • Vitamin E succinate the most potent anti-cancer tocopherol known to man. As you have heard on the show, vitamin E succinate attaches directly to a protein that's preferentially expressed in carcinogenic or pre-carcinogenic cells. It goes by the name α-Tocopherol-associated protein (TAP) and was found to be one of the major α-tocopherol binding proteins in serum, liver, brain and prostate. What has as of yet not been so clear, though, is that the expression of this protein increases with the malignancy of (breast) cancer (Tam. 2012). 

    Figure 1: Effects of alpha tocoperyl succinate alone (TOS), doxorubicin alone (DOX) or both (DOX + TOS) on cell viability in human MB231 breast cancer cells (my edits, original from Tam. 2012) - note: The effect was less pronounced in other cancer cells, so that it is reasonable to assume that the efficacy of the therapy will depend on the exact genotype of the cancer (for those tested in the study it was MB231 > SKBR3 > MCF 10A)
    When alpha tocopherol succinate binds to the protein on the cancer cells, this will either alone, or in combination with chemotherapy trigger apoptosis and cell death. It is as of yet not fully elucidated why vitamin E succinate is highly cancer-specific and leaves the healthy cells intact, but this could be related to the high metabolic rate and exuberant ROS production of cancer cells. There is however some research that would suggest that the cancer cells literally suffocate in their own radical oxygen specimen (ROS), which can no longer be cleared from the cell, due to the alpha-tocopheryl succinate induced displacement of ubiquinone from CII and the subsequent blockade of succinate dehydrogenase (SDH) activity (Dong. 2012).  If this hypothesis holds true it would therefore appear that long-term chronic supplementation with vitamin E succinate cannot be recommended until future studies on its general safety have been undertaken. As an adjuvant to chemotherapy, on the other hand, it could drastically reduce the dosage requirements during chemotherapy in specific types of cancer (see figure 1) and thus minimize side effects.

    You see, there is more to it than you can say in two minutes on the radio and this is why I will make sure we don't rush through the items that fast, in the next show. Ah,... of course the dietary source. I had almost forgotten about that one. As mentioned on the show, alpha tocopheryl succinate was originally extracted from Barley leaves. An while this may not be the first paper dealing with this "natural vitamin E analog", the one by Badamchian et al. is probably the one you will be most interested in.

    Published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry the paper does not only describe the isolation of vitamin E succinate from green barley leaf extract (BLE)...
    "BLE [barley leaf extract] powder (50 mg/mL) was suspended in water and stirred for 1 hr at room temperature. The mixture was then centrifuged at 3000g for 30 minutes using a bench-top centrifuge. The pellet was discarded and the supernatant was pre-filtered through a Millipore DEPTH filter. The filtrate was then filtered through 0.45 I.tM mem- brane and stored at -20 ° C for HPLC or biological assays." (Badamchian. 1999)
    ... it does also shine another spotlight on its potential biological effects, as far as it's ability to increase growth hormone, but (unfortunately?) also prolactin in isolated anterior pituitary cells from female rodents:
    Figure 2: Prolactin and growth hormone release in anterior pituitary cells of female rodents after incubation with different amounts of green barley extract in which vitamin E succinate had been deterimed as the main ingredient before (based on Badamchian. 1999)
    It's really hard to estimate whether or not one of these effects would translate from a rodent cell in the petri dish to you or me popping a cap with vitamin E succinate everyday. That's particularly true in view of the fact that the underlying mechanism of the increase in GH and the imho more concerning increase in prolactin is neither mediated by increases in intracellular C-AMP, as it would be the case for GRF (old acronym for growth hormone releasing hormone), nor is it induced by the hydrolysis of polyhoshpoinositide, which is the underlying mechanism of the stimulative effect of TRH (thyrotropin releasing hormone). So basically we neither know how it works, nor do we know, whether the oral ingestion of vitamin E-succinate would be sufficient to produce serum concentrations in the pituitary that would be high enough concentrations to make any difference at all (note: the scientists excluded the influence of other components of the extract by testing alpha tocopherol succinate on its own in a separate trial)

    Bottom line: Based on roughly one dozen of in-vitro studies there is simply still to little evidence to decide who, outside of people with a history of cancer or someone who is just undergoing chemotherapy would benefit. Therefore, I suggest you wait before you add vitamin E succinate to your list of 'must have' supplements. Is it promising? Sure! Is it exciting, yeah! Is it save for a healthy being to be taken chronically??? I can't tell.
  • The detrimental hormonal effects of pushing yourself beyond the tolerable threshold - Hardcore plyometrics and heavy HIIT and their impact on testosterone, cortisol, thyroid hormone and co: I guess you did already get the main message when you listened to the show, but just to give you an idea about the actual quantities, I thought it would be nice to provide you with two graphs as a reference.
    Figure 3: Comparison of the hormonal responses measured in the plyometrics (left) and the HIIT vs. LISS (right) study (based on Ozen. 2012 and Hackney. 2012)
    If you focus mainly on the differential cortisol responses in the two studies, it would appear likely that we are dealing with two very different forms of 'overtraining' here. While the HIIT protocol (90s at 100-110%, 90s active recovery at 40% matched for workload with steady state jogging at 60-65% of the VO2 max) probably wouldn't be a problem, if the athletes would get adequate rest and nutrition in the days after the session, the 6-weeks of plyometrics (15 session, increasing density, 90-195 reps per session) were enough to send the participants right into the vicious circle of the Athlete's Triad (if you have not done so already, I suggest you read up on that in the eponymous SuppVersity series).

    And you know what? Despite, or I should probably rather say due to their compromised hormone levels the guys in the plyometrics study did not lose a single gram of body weight. Good for their muscle, bad for the fat which was likewise preserved by the hormonal shut down, which affected both cortisol and testosterone in a similar way. So is that good or bad news? Well, let me say it this way:. Usually I see people training for a purpose and while the outcome often is stagnation and chronic fatigue, I would suspect that only few of you will have that on their mind, when they are hitting the gym, right?
Apropos viscous circle, and overtraining in order to avoid "overblogging" I will call it a day for today. Come back tomorrow for a couple of wholly new studies from the realms of exercise and nutrition sciences and in case you are planning to drink this evening, I highly suggest you check out the SuppVersity Facebook newspost on the effects of green tea extract on the uptake of alcohol. It may well be that those old fatburner caps of yours can be put to a way better use ;-)
  • Badamchian M, Spangelo BL, Bao Y et al. Isolation of a vitamin E analog from green barley leaf extract that stimulates the release of prolactin and growth hormone from rat anterior pituitary cells in vitro. Journal of Nutritional Biochemestry. 1994; 5: 145-150.
  • Dong LF, Low P, Dyason JC, Wang XF, Prochazka L, Witting PK, Freeman R, Swettenham E, Valis K, Liu J, Zobalova R, Turanek J, Spitz DR, Domann FE, Scheffler IE, Ralph SJ, Neuzil J. Alpha-tocopheryl succinate induces apoptosis by targeting ubiquinone-binding sites in mitochondrial respiratory complex II. Oncogene. 2008 Jul 17;27(31):4324-35. Epub 2008 Mar 31.
  • Hackney AC, Kallman A, Hosick KP, Rubin DA, Battaglini CL. Thyroid hormonal responses to intensive interval versus steady-state endurance exercise sessions. Hormones (Athens). 2012 Jan-Mar;11(1):54-60.
  • Ozen, SV. Reproductive hormones and cortisol responses to plyometric training in males. Biol Sport.2012; 29 (3).
  • Tam KW, Ho CT, Lee WJ, Tu SH, Huang CS, Chen CS, Lee CH, Wu CH, Ho YS. Alteration of α-tocopherol-associated protein (TAP) expression in human breast epithelial cells during breast cancer development. Food Chemistry. 2012 [ahead of print]