amino acid

  1. Fight depression -- and win -- with creatine

    The amino acid that can knock out depression

    You don't need meds to win a fight against the blues -- just a little muscle, because a key amino acid used to build strength can actually knock depression down for the count.

    It's called creatine, and while it's found in meats and fish it's also sold by the bucket to weightlifters and bodybuilders because it can help build and maintain muscle.

    But a number of studies show it can also put some muscle into your mental health, including new research on 52 women in South Korea who were given either 5 grams of creatine or a placebo to take each day with the SSRI drug Lexapro.

    These were women battling major depression -- but eight weeks later, half of the women given creatine were cured. Only a quarter of women on the placebo saw similar results.

    Even many of the women who weren't cured saw big improvements, and it didn't take eight weeks for those results to kick in. At two weeks, the women on creatine improved by an average of 32 percent on a widely used test that measures depression symptoms. And by week four, those improvements shot up to 68 percent.

    In those given the placebo, the numbers were 3.7 percent at two weeks and 29 percent at the four-week mark.

    The only problem with creatine in the levels used in this and other studies is getting it -- because you'd need to open a butcher shop to get enough from meat alone.

    You'd have to eat a pound of beef a day to get the 5 grams used in the new study. So for most people, a supplement is a much easier and far more practical solution.

    Bear in mind that creatine can occasionally come with some unpleasant side effects. The women in the study didn't report any, but creatine use can sometimes cause diarrhea and muscle cramping.

    And if you've had liver or kidney problems, check with your doctor before trying it out.

  2. Chicken thighs and healthy hearts

    Don't feel bad if you've never heard of taurine. Most people haven't, and that apparently includes Microsoft since it's not even in my spellchecker.

    It's an amino acid found in the tastiest part of the chicken, aka the dark meat you've been told not to eat.

    Well, go ahead and eat up -- because a new study finds that some women with high dietary levels of taurine have a lower risk of a heart attack.

    Researchers from the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York checked the records on more than 14,000 women between the ages of 34 and 65, and found...almost nothing.

    Not at first, anyway.

    But once they started to break the numbers down, they found that high blood levels of taurine slashed the risk of heart disease by 60 percent in women with total cholesterol levels of more than 250 mg/dL.

    The study doesn't prove that taurine lowers heart risk, nor does it indicate why that connection would even exist. But let's take a stab at it here and guess that women with higher cholesterol AND high taurine came by their cholesterol levels honestly.

    They're eating natural meats and dairy -- all great sources of taurine -- and if their cholesterol levels happen to be a little elevated by mainstream standards, they've really got nothing to worry about.

    And thanks to that healthier diet, they're probably going to have a lower risk of a heart attack anyway.

    Women with high cholesterol and low taurine, on the other hand, might be getting their chicken from a greasy paper bucket and other nutritionally empty sources -- and that's the best way to ensure you'll experience heart problems eventually.

    Again, that's just a guess. And since this is just one study, I wouldn't rush out to stock up on taurine in any case (but feel free to grill up some chicken thighs).

    When it comes to protecting your ticker, stick with the tried-and-true. And for some tips on the best tried-and-true nutrients out there, I turned to one of the nation's leading experts on natural health.

    Dr. Mark Stengler, a California naturopath and author of multiple best-selling books on natural cures, says there are four supplements everyone interested in cardiovascular health should be taking: fish oil, coenzyme Q10, L-Carnitine and magnesium.

    If you're missing out on any of these, do your heart a favor and add them to your supplement regimen today. They're inexpensive, easy to find and they could save your life.

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