Some causative factors
- Anti-HIV drugs
- Chronic hepatitis
- Coenzyme Q10 deficiency
- Drug abuse, especially nitrite poppers
- Nutritional deficiencies, especially selenium.
In 95 HIV positive patients, higher rates of death and opportunistic infection corresponded with lower levels of serum selenium. Serum selenium was predictive of the prognosis of HIV patients irrespective of their CD4 cell count. Constans J et al: Serum selenium predicts outcome in HIV infection. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr Hum Retrovirol 10(3):392, 1995.
Compared with normals, those diagnosed as HIV+ have evidence of selenium deficiency as determined by reduced glutathione peroxidase activity. Dworkin BM et al: Selenium deficiency in the Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (Aids). J Parent and Ent Nutr 10:405-407, 1986
Dworkin BM et al: Abnormalities of blood selenium and glutathione peroxidase activity in patients with Aids syndrome and Aids-related complex. Biol Trace Elem Res 15:167-177, 1988
Selenium deficiency causes a heart muscle disease (congestive cardiomyopathy). Selenium deficiency is known to be common among Aids patients. Eight Aids patients examined at autopsy were all found to be abnormal, with changes related to those found in cardiomyopathy. Dworkin BM et al: Reduced cardiac selenium content in the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. J Parent Ent Nutr 13(6):644-7, 1989
Low zinc status has been demonstrated in Aids sufferers and may cause thymic hormone failure. Fabris N et al: Aids, zinc deficiency and thymic hormone failure. JAMA 259(6):839-840, 1988
A survey of vitamin supplement use and circulating concentrations of 22 nutrients and glutathione in 64 HIV+ men and women, revealed lower mean circulating concentrations of several nutrients compared with controls. The authors conclude that the low magnesium levels may be particularly relevant to symptoms such as fatigue and that the abnormal nutrient levels may contribute to the pathogenesis of the disease. Skurnick JH et al: Micronutrient profiles in HIV-1-infected heterosexual adults. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr Hum Retrovirol 12(1):75-83, 1996.
Mortality from Aids was compared with diet in 281 HIV positive individuals between 1984 and 1992. Those with the highest intake (from food and supplements) of vitamin B1 had a relative risk (RR) of dying during that period, of only 60% compared with those on the lowest intakes. For vitamin B2 the RR was 59%, for B3 57%, and for beta-carotene 60%. For vitamin B6 taken at levels more than twice the RDA the RR of death was 60%. Zinc supplementation was associated with a higher risk of mortality at all levels. Tang AM et al: Effects of micronutrient intake on survival in human immunodeficiency virus type 1 infection. Am J Epidemiol 143(12):1244-56, 1996.
Compared with controls, 21 HIV+ patients were found to have higher concentrations of reduced homocysteine (which could contribute to free radical damage), normal total homocysteine, but lower concentrations of the amino acid methionine in plasma. There was a significant correlation between low methionine concentrations and a low CD4+ cell count. Muller F et al: Elevated plasma concentration of reduced homocysteine in patients with human immunodeficiency virus infection. Muller F et al: Am J Clin Nutr 63(2):242-8, 1996.
Promising nutritional research
A group of Aids patients with cryptosporidium infection were given liquid allicin (garlic extract) mixed with water daily. This resulted in less diarrhoea and stabilized or increased body weight. Several patients showed negative tests for cryptosporidium parasites on follow-up. Garlic for cryptosporidiosis? Treat Rev 22:11, 1996.
Ten HIV+ patients with severely low natural killer cell activity, abnormal helper-to-suppressor T-cell ratios (both these parameters are indicators of advanced Aids, probably with short life expectancy) and opportunistic infections such as cryptosporidial diarrhoea were given 5 grams daily for 6 weeks and then 10 grams daily for 6 weeks of an aged garlic extract. 3 patients died before the trial ended, but 7 of the 10 experienced a return to normal natural-killer cell activity by the end of the 12 weeks. Chronic diarrhoea and candidiasis also improved. Abdullah T et al: Garlic as an antimicrobial and immune modulator in AIDS. Int Conf AIDS (Canada) 5:466 (ISBN 0-662-56670-X), 1989.
Coenzyme Q10 levels were found to be severely depressed in Aids patients. Supplementation with 200 mg per day produced encouraging clinical results
Langsjoen PH et al: Treatment of patients with human immunodeficiency virus infection with coenzyme Q10. Biomed and Clin Aspects of CoQ10 6:409-416, 1991.
Supplementation with selenium and antioxidant vitamins brings symptomatic improvements in Aids sufferers and may slow the course of the disease
Schrauzer GN et al: Selenium in the maintenance and therapy of HIV-infected patients. Chem Biol Interact 91(2-3):199-205, 1994.
Decreased vitamin B12 levels occur in up to 20% of Aids patients, and may result in dementia symptoms diagnosed as Aids dementia. These symptoms resolved in two months in one patient diagnosed with Aids dementia who was treated with vitamin B12. Herzlich BC et al: Reversal of apparent Aids dementia complex following treatment with vitamin B12. J Inern Med 233(6):495-7, 1993.
Aids patients suffer from reduced zinc bioavailability. Since zinc deficiency is associated with immune abnormalities and an increased susceptibility to infectious diseases, zinc supplements were administered for 30 days to AZT-treated stage III and stage IV Aids patients. Body weight increased or stabilized, the CD4+ cell count increased and the frequency of opportunistic infections was reduced in the following 24 months. Mocchegiani E et al: Benefit of oral zinc supplementation as an adjunct to zidovudine (AZT) therapy against opportunistic infections in AIDS. Int J Immunopharmacol 17(9):719-27, 1995.
Progression to full-blown Aids was compared with diet in 281 HIV positive individuals between 1984 and 1990. Those with the highest intake (from food and supplements) of vitamin C had a relative risk (RR) of progressing to Aids during that period, of only 55% compared with those on the lowest intakes. For vitamin B1 the RR was 60%, and for B3 52%. A moderate (but not high) vitamin A intake was also protective, with a RR of 55%. High zinc intakes were associated with an increased risk of progression to Aids. Tang AM et al: Dietary micronutrient intake and the risk of progression to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (Aids) in human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1)-infected homosexual men. Am J Epidemiol 138(11):937-51, 1993.
Information compiled by Linda Lazarides
Naturopathic Nutritionist, Author, Educator