Newsletter May 16, 2017


AllergiesI write from New York, where we’re deep in allergy season. So my first nugget of information features Sujan Patel, an Assistant Professor of Allergy and Immunology at New York University, who explains why the allergy season is getting worse and lays out his lines of defense for the allergy sufferer (1).

Now, onto vitiligo. I am often asked whether a gluten-free diet can improve vitiligo. Gluten is a storage protein in wheat, rye, and barley that may promote inflammation and intestinal damage in the 0.7% of the population with celiac disease. Others may also suffer, through what is known as ‘non-celiac gluten sensitivity’ - a condition that, as yet, has no known biological basis and is the subject of some debate.

In all my years at the VRF, I’ve seen only a handful of cases of vitiligo improving after gluten restriction, despite all the hype that surrounds it. So, I’d recommend testing for true gluten intolerance before restricting intake, or else it may cause problems(2). If you do give it a try, two to three months of a gluten-restricted diet is enough to see if it can help your vitiligo.

Frankly, before you start messing with your diet, I would try regular physical activity and more sleep – as both can reduce inflammation in your skin and body, as well as being great for your overall health. Insufficient sleep has a bad effect on almost everything, to the extent that even painkillers don’t work(3), so going to bed early will do you the world of good. The same goes for exercise - guidelines recommend(4) at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week.

Exercise PillBut, believe it or not (and I’m not sure I do) 'exercise-in-a-pill' could soon be possible. Researchers have discovered a chemical compound that can activate a gene normally stimulated by running. Activation of a muscle receptor(5) - either genetically or pharmacologically - can boost exercise endurance capacity by as much as 70%. If the FDA ever approves this it would certainly bring benefits to those unable to exercise due to a medical condition or for any other reason.

If you do want a dietary boost to help with vitiligo – and other conditions – I would follow the advice of my good friend Prof. Torello Lotti. He often concludes his vitiligo lectures with a slide on the health benefits of resveratrol - a natural compound found in red grape skins. At lower doses, resveratrol can be very useful(6) in maintaining human health, whereas at higher doses it goes in reverse. Resveratrol - also known as darakchasava in India - comes in a variety of flavors and shapes. But I wouldn’t bother with supplements - the dosage is typically much lower than is needed for a measurable effect. My personal preference is for a glass of good ol’ red wine(7).

I’m not going to get into recommending a wine to buy, as our hundreds of French readers - who are justifiably proud of their country’s historic wine culture – undoubtedly know far more about the subject than me. However, I can’t resist pointing out that – of all our vitiligo experts from across the world – it is the eminent Prof. Nino Tsiskarishvili from Georgia who has the best claim of originating from the birthplace of winemaking as we know it.

CoffeeAnd now from wine to coffee, as news reaches me that drinking your coffee the Italian way – espresso made with high pressure, very high water temperature, and no filters - may have health benefits thanks to a greater concentration of bioactive substances. A new study of coffee drinking Italian men shows those enjoying three and more cups of espresso per day halve their risk of developing prostate cancer.

Time to go, but keep your eyes peeled for the next newsletter. Amongst other things I’ll share some new medical clothing ideas I’ve come across, personality insights from IBM Watson, and an upcoming session at the UN ECOSOC on the rights of people with disabilities.

My best, as always,

Yan Valle



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I support the petition to designate June 25 as Vitiligo World Day and save millions of people worldwide from social isolation and persecution.

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