Nutrition News!!

Nutrition News: What You Need to Know

A Rise in Metabolic Syndrome

Half of U.S. adults age 60 or older now have what is called metabolic syndrome – a cluster of symptoms that raise the risks of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. Talk to your doctor if you have three or more of the following:

  • A large waist circumference
  • Low HDL (the “good” cholesterol)
  • High triglycerides
  • High blood pressure
  • A high fasting blood sugar leveL

A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE CAN CUT the  RISK!!

DO YOU NEED VITAMIN D? 

The Facts:

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin found in two forms, Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and D3 (cholecalciferol). The RDA for women and men is 15 mcg or 600 UL and the UL is 100 mcg (4,000 IU  The primary functions are: needed for absorption of calcium and phosphorus and their utilization in bone formation, and nerve and muscle activity. It also inhibits inflammation and is involved in insulin secretion and blood glucose level maintenance. You may have seen lately the claim that it is needed especially in older adults for the prevention and/or treatment for COVID-19; however, so far there is no solid evidence to support that.

There is some preliminary evidence that it may offer some antiviral responses against the risk of respiratory infections in general and boost the ability of lung cells to fight bacteria and viruses. A large meta analysis)  published in 2017 in BMJ (British Medical Journal) concluded that taking a D supplement with anywhere from less than 800 IU to more than 2000 IU reduced the risk of having at least one respiratory tract infection. Those most deficient saw the most benefits, and there is “no trial that has shown any benefit for giving vitamin D in any population that is getting enough vitamin D,” says F. Michael Gloth, III, M.D., an associate professor of geriatric medicine at Johns Hopkins University Medical School.

About 50 percent of people aged 60 and older take a D supplement and for some, it may useful. About 80% of older adults don’t get enough D in their diet as well as there are few food sources of vitamin D, since we make our own D in the skin.  Because of this, The National Academy of Medicine recommends 600 IU of vitamin D a day up to age 70; 800 IU daily after that. Ultimately, whether to get tested or take a supplement comes down having this discussion with your doctor.

Lifestyle habits can make a difference:

  • Don’t smoke – smoking depletes many vitamins and limit your ability to make vitamin D.
  • People carrying extra weight often have low D levels. Losing that extra weight may boost D levels.
  • Physical activity may increase vitamin D levels.
  • Getting enough sun – just 15 to 20 minutes a day on face, arms, legs, back without sunscreen can give a healthy dose. This can be harder in the winter or if you have darker skin.
  • Diet can help a little – cow’s milk and plant milks are usually fortified as well as some juices and cereals. Fatty fish and egg yolks help.
  • People with bowel disease or metabolic problems can affect D absorption. A simple blood test is often recommended by your doctor. Consult with your doctor who can help you with testing your individual levels, no matter what your age or health status.

Source: CRConsumer Reports On Health, October, 2020

What is the difference betwwen ALA, EPA, and DHA  Omega 3 fatty acids?

Both nuts and fish contain healthy omega-3 fatty acids. They help fight inflammation, boost brain and heart health and ensure healthy fetal development.   However there are three omega-3 fats (ALA, EPA and DHA) that differ in how we acquire them in our diets. The omega-3 from nuts is primarily ALA, while EPA and DHA are found preformed in fish. and algae. Here are the facts:

  • Omega-3 ALA cannot be created in our bodies and must, therefore be acquired from diet or supplements.
  • ALA is good but EPA and DHA are better (EPA for inflammation and DHA for brain/heart health. Your brain is made up of 58% DHA by dry weight.
  • Although we are technically able to synthesize our own EPA and DHA from ALA, we don’t do so very efficiently (in fact, the rates of conversion are quite low at 3% and 19%, respectively).
  • So if you’re vegetarian or simply don’t like fish, you may need to supplement your diet with EPA/DHA from fish or look for vegetarian omega-3 supplements that derive EPA and DHA from algae. Simply, that is where the fish get it.

Source: Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter

Diet Supplements: Beliefs and Reality

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Consumers tend to believe that dietary supplements:

  • Have fewer side effects than prescription drugs.
  • Are approved by the FDA.
  • Will improve and maintain health.
  • Are safe, high quality, and effective.
  • May replace conventional medicines.

DIETARY SUPPLEMENT REALITIES

  • FDA does not approve, test, or regulate the manufacture or sale of dietary supplements.
  • The FDA has limited power to keep potentially harmful diet supplements off the market.
  • Dietary supplements may not have been tested for safety or effectiveness before they are sold.
  • Dietary supplements often do not list side effects, warnings, or drug or food interactions on product labels.
  • Ingredients listed on supplement labels may not include all active ingredients.
  •  Dietary supplements may not relieve problems or promote health and performance as advertised.
  • One of the most serious consequences of supplements results when they are used as a remedy for health problems that can be treated, but not by vitamins or minerals. Vitamin and mineral supplements have NOT been found as yet to prevent or treat heart disease, cancer, diabetes, hypertension, premature death, behavioral problems, sexual dysfunction, hair loss, autism, chronic fatigue syndrome, obesity, cataracts or stress. Some such as vitamin E, vitamin C and beta-carotene may be harmful to certain groups of people. If taken, dosages should not be excessive.

Judith Brown, Nutrition Now, 2013.

The recent pandemic brings with it its schemes, misinformation, and claims for combating the virus. The supermarket tabloid covers feature various foods to eat to avoid viral infections.  Always consult with your doctor about these claims. And thanks to Quackwatch,  you can find  a very comprehensive guide about COVID-19 claims HERE.

Vitamin D and Infectious Disease

Vitamin D Foods

Immunologic Effects of Vitamin D on Human Health and Disease

Affiliations

Free article

Abstract

Vitamin D is responsible for regulation of calcium and phosphate metabolism and maintaining a healthy mineralized skeleton. It is also known as an immunomodulatory hormone. Experimental studies have shown that 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D, the active form of vitamin D, exerts immunologic activities on multiple components of the innate and adaptive immune system as well as endothelial membrane stability. Association between low levels of serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D and increased risk of developing several immune-related diseases and disorders, including psoriasis, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, tuberculosis, sepsis, respiratory infection, and COVID-19, has been observed. Accordingly, a number of clinical trials aiming to determine the efficacy of administration of vitamin D and its metabolites for treatment of these diseases have been conducted with variable outcomes. Interestingly, recent evidence suggests that some individuals might benefit from vitamin D more or less than others as high inter-individual difference in broad gene expression in human peripheral blood mononuclear cells in response to vitamin D supplementation has been observed. Although it is still debatable what level of serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D is optimal, it is advisable to increase vitamin D intake and have sensible sunlight exposure to maintain serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D at least 30 ng/mL (75 nmol/L), and preferably at 40-60 ng/mL (100-150 nmol/L) to achieve the optimal overall health benefits of vitamin D.

This abstract and article was published in Nutrients, 2020: 12(7), 2097

In light of the current Covid-19 pandemic, questions are raised and answers sought about the role of nutrition in the prevention of infectious diseases. In this case, vitamin D (a fat soluble vitamin stored in the body) is examined.

Vitamin D Facts:

RDA Women: 600 IU; Men: 600 IU; UL: 4000 IU. Toxicity possible with long-term use of 10,000 IU daily. 1 microgram (mcg) vitamin D = 40 IU.

Primary Functions: Needed for absorption of calcium and phosphorus for bone formation nerve and muscle activity. Inhibits inflammation and is involved in insulin secretion and blood glucose level maintenance.

Consequences of Deficiency: Weak, deformed bones (children), loss of calcium from bones (adults), osteoporosis.

Concenquences of Overdose: Mental retardation in young children, abnormal bone growth and formation. Nausea, diarrhea, irritability, weight loss. Deposition of calcium in organs such as kidneys, liver and heart.

Primary Food Sources: Vitamin D – fortified milk, cereals, and other foods. Fish

Highlights: Vitamin D3, the most active form is manufactured from a form of cholesterol in skin cells upon exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun. Inadequate vitamin D status is common. Breast-fed infants with little sun exposure benefit from vitamin D supplements. People with very dark skin, especially from Asian and Afro-Carribbean descent find it difficult to make vitamin D from limited sunlight.

NOTE: It’s important to know that megadoses of any vitamin or mineral are never recommended, unless there is a medical reason for doing so. In this case, a Canadian study reported that among 303 middle-aged and older adults (who were not vitamin D deficient), those who were randomly assigned to get 4,000 IU  of vitamin D  a day for 3 years lost more bone in their arms  than those who got 400 IU a day. Those who got 10,000 IU a day lost more bone in their arms and shins than those who got 400 IU a day.  See the consequences of overdose. 

 

 

There’s A Supplement for That!!

By Sally J. Feltner, M.S.,Ph.D

In 1994, Congress passed the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act that loosened the regulation requirements that ultimately favored the manufacturers and led to an explosion of the dietary supplement market.
As a result, the FDA now has minimal regulation over testing prior to marketing concerning the safety or effectiveness of any supplement. Any testing is the responsibility of the manufacturer so it becomes difficult to “prove” any safety issues that may be present.

Since 1994, the FDA has taken action against many products because they contain prescription drugs or contaminants. Most of the products under scrutiny were labeled for use as sexual enhancement, body building, and weight loss.

Dietary Supplement Labeling:

Fortunately, what goes on the label is regulated. Structure/function claims can advertise  how the product affects normal body structures (such as “helps maintain strong bones”) or functions. Claims such as “improves circulation”, “prevents wrinkles” “supports the immune system”, and “helps maintain mental health” can be used, whereas “prevents heart disease”, “cures depression” cannot be.

If a function claim is made, the labeling has this warning: “This statement has not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.” So who needs them?

Take the Case of Robert
Robert is 70 years old and has always been healthy. Recently, he experienced a few episodes of forgetfulness but thought nothing of it and attributed it to old age. Then he began feeling tired and having tingling in his hands and feet, difficulty walking, and diarrhea. He finally made a doctor’s appointment.

His blood test revealed he had a vitamin B12 deficiency and after a diet history, the doctor noticed he ate very little meat or dairy.  Due to his age, the doctor explained the deficiency could be caused by a condition common in older adults that reduces the ability to absorb  the vitamin and suggested he start to take a daily supplement containing the vitamin. He also gave him an injection of vitamin B12 in case the vitamin was not being adequately absorbed by Robert.

Who may benefit from vitamin and mineral supplements? 

  • People with a diagnosed vitamin and/or mineral deficiencies
  • Newborns (vitamin K)
  • Vegans (vitamin B12 and D)
  • Pregnant women (folate and iron)
  • Elderly persons on limited diets (multivitamin/minerals)
  • People on restricted diets (multivitamins/minerals)
  • People at risk for osteoporosis (calcium, vitamin D)
  • People with alcoholism (multivitamin/minerals)
  • Elderly people diagnosed with vitamin B12, vitamin D and/or folate deficit

Guidelines for Using Vitamin and Mineral Supplements
Purchase products with USP (U.S. Pharmacopeia or the CL symbol (Consumer Laboratories) – tested for purity, ingredients, and dose.
Choose supplements containing 100% of the Daily Value or less.
Take supplements with meals.
Tell your health care provider about the supplements you take. Some may affect your prescription medications.

Nonvitamin NonMineral Supplements

Fatty Acids: Omega-3’s, fish oils, DHA and EPA, flaxseeds

Claims: To reduce heart disease and enhance brain function. This claim has recently been disputed and needs further research as to its effectiveness.

Omega-3s compete with omega-6s (vegetable oils like corn oil, soybean oil, safflower seed oil) for conversion to eicosanoids that help regulate blood clotting, inflammation, and blood pressure in the body.
Problem: We have far more 6’s in the food supply than we have 3’s. They work best at a ratio of 4:1 but instead we have 20:1 in favor of 6’s.

Flaxseeds contain alpha-linolenic fatty acid that can be be converted to EPA and DHA in the body; but this is not very efficient in humans and decreases as we age. EPA and DHA are the active forms which can lower inflammation and blood clotting factors. That is why we should eat EPA and DHA directly from fish instead of relying on their conversion in the body from alpha-linolenic acid.

Bottom Line:

  • Found to not be very effective in reducing heart attacks in supplement form.
    Best to get them eating fatty fish 2-3 times a week. (salmon, trout, tuna)
    Possible problems with mercury and contaminants in fish (farmed and wild-caught
    Fish oil supplements not recommended for anyone taking blood thinner medications.

Enzyme Supplements

Enzymes are proteins that are  broken down in the small intestine to amino acids; thus, the original enzyme and its functions are not intact – so little if any effect can be gained from taking them in their enzyme form.

One exception: Some are made to work in the digestive tract before they are broken down. For example, lactase breaks down lactose and is helpful to people who are lactose intolerant.

So, if these are not specially coated to protect them as they are in cystic fibrosis, most enzyme supplements are totally useless to the body.  Healthy people make their own digestive enzymes in the pancreas and small intestine.

Hormone Supplements
Many marketed to athletes to replace the desirable steroid hormones that enhance muscle growth and strength and can be dangerous, like growth hormones. Again, without putting them to the test, there is no way to measure their safety or effectiveness.

Melatonin:
Not a protein, but a steroid hormone made in the pineal gland in the brain.
Marketed as a sleep aid and help with jet lag.
Claimed to improve sleep duration and quality
Somewhat effective
Dose is important – start low.

Coenzyme Supplements:
Coenzymes are enzyme helpers, such as coenzyme Q10.
Needed as an electron carrier in the final steps of energy (ATP) production
Are often claimed to be needed when statins are taken. .
This can cause side effects of statins of muscle pain and weakness.
Some studies show benefits of reduced pain – but not all

Herbal Remedies
As with all supplements, they are only as good if they are effective and safe (some are not). Human studies with herbal remedies have helped identify which herbals and supplements lack beneficial effects or have adverse effects. Some can pose a health risk. Results of most studies are mixed.

Guidelines for Herbal Use

  • Don’t use for serious, self-diagnosed conditions.
    Let your doctor know what herbals you take.
    Clear the use of herbal remedies with your doctor if you take prescription meds.
    Do not use if attempting or are pregnant.
    Don’t mix herbal remedies.
    If you are allergic to certain plants, make sure the same is not true of the chosen herbal supplement.
    Buy herbs with the USP label or have the CL label.

Functional Foods
Generally taken to mean food or food ingredients that may provide a health benefit beyond the effects of traditional nutrients it contains

Examples of functional foods with proposed health benefits include:

  • Stanol and sterol fortified margarines, psyllium fiber, whole oat products – reduced blood levels of LDL cholesterol
  • Omega-3 acids – reduce blood triglycerides – must be in high doses
  • Cranberry juice extracts – decreased urinary tract infections
  • Folic-Acid fortified breads and cereals – decreased neural tube defects
  • Probiotics – decreased risk of infections, lactose intolerance, diarrhea

DISCUSSION:

According to Marion Nestle, author of Unsavory Truths, and Food Politics – Paulette Goddard Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health, emerita, at New York University, Visiting Professor of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell:

“I wrote extensively about the paucity of evidence for the value of dietary supplements for anyone who eats enough of a reasonably varied diet. The supplement industry funds many studies that demonstrate health benefits from taking one supplement or another, but studies funded independently usually do not – and sometimes suggest that taking nutrients in pill form can be harmful.”

Don’t be fooled by the claims made by the purveyors of dietary supplements – In my opinion, most are more than likely no better than the remedies peddled by our ancestors, i.e., the snake oil salesmen. Lately some supplements have become very expensive (my opinion) and the consumer has the right to know whether to spend hard earned money on these products or not. To put it simply – Buyer Beware,

 

Is Fish Brain Food? The Omega Fats Explained

The major food sources for LA are sunflower, safflower, corn, and soybean oils. LA can also be converted to another fatty acid called omega 6 arachidonic acid (AA) found in meats and animal products. LNA is found in walnuts, dark, leafy green vegetables, flaxseed, canola and soybean oils.

LNA can be converted at various rates to other omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). You may have seen these on fish oil supplement labels. We can get EPA and DHA directly by eating fish and fish oils or by taking supplements.

So far the major lipid players consist of LA and AA that are omega-6 fats and LNA, EPA and DHA that are omega-3 fats. For those of you who are still with me, that’s the hard part. For keeping this simple, this post will mainly concentrate on the functions of the three and six families, with little to none of the nine family.

Is Fish a Brain Food?

The fact remains that nutrition science is becoming more aware of the impact of lifestyle factors in the prevention of chronic diseases. The overall number of Americans afflicted with dementia is expected to triple by the year 2050. Whether you become a victim has a lot to do with your health behavior patterns.

Recently there was a major study in 2019 that looked at the effects of certain foods and food components on cognitive function. A group of 116 elderly Americans with an average age of 69 underwent cognitive testing, MRI scans to assess brain function and structure, and blood tests to assess nutrient status.

The Results: The results identified six categories of  nutrients found in the blood associated with enhanced cognitive performance that measured general intelligence, executive function, and memory. The nutrients associated with improved cognitive performance included carotenoids (antioxidants), folate, B6, B12, Vitamin D, and a healthy balance  or ratio  of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids.

MRI imaging revealed enhanced brain network connectivity in those with healthy balances of omega-6/omega-3 fatty acids which will be the  focus of this post. For  those who had more vascular risk factors (smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity) the MRI imaging showed greater brain shrinkage and less gray and white matter in brain tissues.

What is a  balanced ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fats in the diet?

Most modern diets contain excessive amounts of omega-6s and insufficient amounts of omega-3s. Americans regularly eat processed food and vegetable oils but eat fish infrequently so we end up with many more omega-6s and fewer omega-3s.

The recommended ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in the diet is 4:1 or less, ideally 1:1.  On average in the U.S., the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is a disastrous 16:1.

Therefore, although omega-6 fats are essential in the right quantities, most people in the developed world should aim to reduce their omega-6 intake. Refined vegetable fats such as soybean oil  are used in cookies, crackers, sweets, salad dressings and most fried foods.  For example, a meal from a fast food restaurant  consisting of a fried chicken sandwich and salad can result in over 17000 mg of omega-6 fats being eaten. And it gets worse. One serving of crunchy onion rings contain 30, 989 mg. of omega-6 (from Applebee’s). If you have a salad with soybean or safflower oil dressing, you’d consume about 7,200 mg of additional omega-6 fats. In contrast, a typical serving of wild salmon may provide 2,000 mg of omega-3.

Top 9 Foods with the Highest Omega 3 to Omega 6 Ratio (Try to get close to a 4:1 ratio)

Food Ratio of Three to Six 
Snow crab (3 oz) 61:1
Atlantic cod (6 oz) 29:1
Tuna (6 oz) 25 :1 
Mussels (3 oz) 25:1
Broccoli Rabe (1 cup) 7:1
Spinach (1 cup) 5:1 
Flax seeds (1 oz)  4:1
Mangos (1 cup) 3;1
Lettuce (1 cup) 2:1

The authors of this 2019 study advocate for drastic reductions in ingested omega 6 and increases in omega 3. They advise that for each milligram of omega 6 that you eat, consume about an equal amount of omega-3 fats. That may prove difficult in our current U.S. food environment. This is especially true if you are not a fish lover. Although not a fan of dietary supplements, in this case, a good quality supplement of fish oils (EPA and DHA) may be prudent.  Look for brands with the USP label or the Consumer Lab (CL) label for purity, safety and efficacy. A major supplement provider recommends 2400 mg a day of fish oils (EPA/DHA. (Life Extension)

But wait, there’s more!  What in the Heck are Eicosanoids and How Do they Function in the Body?

Omega-6 fatty acids produce compounds called eicosanoids from arachidonic acid (AA) that tend to favor higher blood pressure, more blood clotting, and inflammatory compounds in the body. These events are associated with a higher risk for heart disease. They are often referred to as “bad” eicosanoids.

Omega-3 fatty acids produce eicosanoids from EPA with opposing effects, i.e., lower blood pressure, less blood clotting, and anti-inflammatory effects.  They are often referred to a “good” eicosanoids.

effects-of-eicosanoids-derived-from-omega-3-and-omega-6-fatty-acids

How do you help block excess arachidonic acid formation? By making sure your body has an adequate amount of EPA and LNA that compete with AA  for an enzyme that acts as an inhibitor of the “bad” eicosanoids.   The higher the EPA and LNA in the diet, the more the enzyme is inhibited and the less “bad” eicosanoids are produced

The Bottom Line:

What to do? Using olive oil in salad dressings and coconut oil for cooking is recommended. Olive oil contains monounsaturated fat and coconut oil is more stable since it has more saturated fat content. Neither of these participate in the production of eicosanoids as well as olive oil contains neutral fats from the nine family of fatty acids.

Eating less processed foods and/or fast foods goes a long way to bring that ratio from 16:1 closer to a healthier 4:1. Your heart and your brain may thank you.

Sources:

Judith E. Brown. Nutrition Now Seventh Edition, 2013.

Life Extension, October 2019

Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University

Zwilling, CE, Talukdar T., Zamroziewicz, MK, et al. Nutrient biomarker patterns, cognitive function, and fMRI measures of network efficiency in the aging brain. Neuroimage. 2019, Mar;188:239-51.

 

 

Is Vitamin C a Valid Treatment for COVID19?

Just read an extensive article concerning the claims that intravenous vitamin C  therapy could be a valid treatment for COVID19. This therapy has been around for decades or at least since the 1970’s when the Nobel Prize winner, Linus Pauling promoted its oral use for curing or preventing the common cold and even as a cancer treatment. Proponents have once again emerged with the same claims concerning COVID19 virus treatment and/or cure with Intravenous vitamin C.

Bottom Line: There is no evidence that this occurs. According to one physician of Orthomolecular Medicine: “if you test people with pneumonia, Influenza or COVID19, you can measure and see that their vitamin C levels are low”; this tells us little if nothing.

Orthomolecular medicine promotes the premise that extremely high doses of natural substances help the body to address illness. For example, the Daily Value for vitamin C is only 90 mg/day (more than enough to prevent scurvy).  In orthomolecular medicine, at least 1500 mg/day would be required and more is better. Fortunately, vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin and is commonly excreted from the body in urine. However, there are side effects at high doses that include diarrhea and other gastrointestinal issues.

A clinical trial in China is investigating the claim of intravenous vitamin C therapy and COVID19;  and it will be interesting if we hear any positive results when the study concludes next year.

Here are the facts as we know them.

CLICK HERE.

Vitamin D: An Anti Inflammatory Vitamin?

Vitamin D Foods

Study: Patients Low In Vitamin D Twice As Likely To Develop Severe COVID-19 Symptoms

Here are some facts about vitamin D.  It is important to remember that just one study is only an observation but can be used to form a hypothesis for further research.  Actually vitamin D is now thought of as a hormone that is involved with helping to build strong bones. Also as a hormone, it plays key  roles in combating chronic inflammation. It does this by entering cells and turning genes that produce Inflammatory substances “off” and those that produce substances that reduce inflammation “on.” In our days of living with the pandemic, we need to pay attention to the dietary factors that may help curtail the effects of the coronovirus or COVID-19.

Inadequate vitamin D status is common.

How to Improve your vitamin D status:

  • Substitute a cup of skim milk for a sweetened beverage at one meal or snack a day.
  • Eat salmon once a week at dinner.
  • Select a vitamin D-fortified orange juice.
  • Buy or select and consume vitamin D-fortified breakfast cereals.
  • Exercise or walk in sunshine for 10 minutes three times a week. Best to wear shorts or short sleeves for better exposure (weather dependent, of course). Vitamin D is manufactured from a form of cholesterol in skin cells upon exposure to ultra-violet rays from the sun. You cannot get too much vitamin D from sun exposure.
  • Take a vitamin D supplement (400-600 IU) daily until you are able to get enough vitamin D through dietary means. NOTE: Please get your doctor’s permission to take vitamin D supplements since it is classified as a fat soluble vitamin and can be toxic at high doses (4,000 IU/ is the upper Tolerable Level) or 100 ug/day.  Check labels carefully. Source: Nutrition Now, 7th Edition, Judith E. Brown

CLICK HERE.

Eat Less for a Longer Life?

Calorie restriction has been shown to extend lifespan in many animal species. Even though the following article is an animal (rat) study, it is very interesting since it goes further than most studies by examining the effects on the body cells themselves of a calorie restricted diet versus a control group with no calorie restriction.

Some people find this easier to do with the practice of intermittent fasting (or time-restricted) eating patterns. It is suggested that you consult your physician with any restrictive diet (e.g., Keto) since it is imperative we still get all the proper nutrients we need for optimum health.

An alternative could be is to consult a certified nutritionist or health coach.  Be careful who you might choose for nutrition information. Unfortunately, some practitioners in the nutrition community offer services that are highly questionable and appear to be outside the legitimate scope of evidence-based nutrition.  Even advanced degrees can be purchased from what used to be called “diploma mills”.  There are a lot of crazy schemes (mostly for weight loss) on the internet – question and check on the  credentials of any person who call themselves a “nutritionist.”  Also if a plan or a supplement sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Stephen Barrett, MD, a long-time crusader against nutrition and health fraud, recommends steering clear of:

  • Anyone who suggests  that large doses of vitamins are effective against a large number of diseases and conditions. That is simply untrue. On the contrary, mega doses can sometimes be harmful.
  • Anyone who suggests hair analysis is a basis for determining the body’s nutritional state and then recommending large numbers of dietary supplements are not reliable for this purpose.
  • Anyone who claims that a wide variety of symptoms and diseases are caused by “hidden food allergies”. There are legitimate food intolerances that are different from true allergies.
  • Anyone who uses a computer-scored “nutrient deficiency test” as the basis of prescribing dietary supplements. There are more valid ways of assessing diets.
  • All practitioners – licensed or not – who sells vitamins and minerals in their offices. Evidence-based nutritionists  do not sell supplements.
  • Practitioners who seem to favor a certain food brand or supplement. There is a lot of research that is supportive of the food industry and research on that particular brand is often biased.

Source: Quack Watch, Where  to Get Professional Nutrition Advice, Stephen Barrett, MD.

CLICK HERE.

Antioxidant Supplements: Do We Need Them?

Antioxidant Foods

Antioxidants and Free Radicals

All cells face constant threats from what are known as free radicals.  We obtain these potential scoundrels from the metabolism of the food we eat, the air we breathe and from sunlight’s action. Free radicals are in varying chemical states, but their main danger lies in their need for obtaining electrons for stability. In order to do this, they “steal” electrons from nearby substances such as body cells and DNA, causing potential damage and destruction. They may damage the instructions in a DNA strand creating a harmful mutation or create  low-density lipoproteins (LDL) that could increase heart disease risk in an artery of the heart, or alter a cell membrane that could affect what enters or leaves a body cell. The body also uses free radicals in a necessary way as part of the immune system to help destroy foreign invaders such as bacteria, viruses, and toxins.

Antioxidants are found naturally in the body such as glutathione, coenzyme Q10, superoxide dismutase among other systems. We obtain many from various foods in the form of vitamins (C, E, beta-carotene and related carotenoids), minerals (selenium, manganese) and various phytonutrients such as flavonoids, phenols, polyphenols, phytoestrogens, and many more found in many plant foods.

Antioxidants probably number in the hundreds or thousands of different substances. Their main function is to act as an electron donor to help squelch the actions of harmful free radicals. Some antioxidants in certain situations can be called prooxidants – electron grabbers. This is likely to be the method found in the defense of the body (e.g. immune system)  Nevertheless, they are all considered to be unique with different roles. “So, no single antioxidant can do the work of the whole crowd.” We obviously need a variety of foods to provide as many as we need to get the job done.

Health Benefits of Antioxidants – What’s the Hype?

Antioxidants came into attention when the research suggested that free radical damage may be involved in chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and vision loss. Studies initially indicated that people who ate the most fruits and vegetables had lower risk of these diseases than people who ate lesser amounts. Clinical trials began to test individual nutrients found in fruits and vegetables that were known antioxidants (vitamin C, E, and beta-carotene) to test their efficacy against these diseases. This took the food and supplement industry and media by storm for a long time with proclaiming protection against diseases by consuming large amounts of antioxidants provided by their products.

However, despite these results and disappointments, antioxidant supplements represent a $500 million-dollar industry that continues to grow. Antioxidants continue to be added to cereals, sports and energy bars and drinks, and other processed foods. Lately, however, the hype appears to have abated somewhat due to the reports of no effects of these vitamins and minerals, and phytochemicals (my opinion).

Heart Disease and Antioxidants

In the Women’s Health Study, 39,876 women took 600 IU of natural vitamin E or a placebo every other day for 10 years. The results? At the end, the rates of major cardiovascular events and cancer were no lower among those taking vitamin E than they were among those taking the placebo.  One large study (the HOPE Trial) found that those taking Vitamin E versus a placebo showed no benefits vs the placebo and vitamin E and that those in the Vitamin E group actually had higher risks of heart failure and hospitalization for heart failure.  Not all trials were negative, however. In a recent trial of vitamin E in Israel, there was a market reduction in coronary heart disease among people with type 2 diabetes.

In the Women’s Antioxidant Cardiovascular Study, vitamin E, vitamin C and/or beta-carotene had much the same effect as a placebo on myocardial infarction, stroke, coronary revascularization, or cardiovascular death, although there was a modest and significant benefit for vitamin E among women with existing cardiovascular disease.

Age-Related Eye Disease and Antioxidants

Some good news for  antioxidant supplements was found in a six-year trial, the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS). The results were that a combination of vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and zinc offered some protection against the onset of advanced age-related macular degeneration in people who were high risk for the disease.

Potential Hazards of Antioxidants

Several studies have raised some concerns about supplemental beta-carotene.  One study even found that when smokers were fed beta-carotene supplements, the chances of developing lung cancer were increased.  Follow-up studies reported the same results. Another possible caution: In the SU.VI.MAX Trial, rates of skin cancer were higher in women assigned to take vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, selenium, and zinc supplements.

The studies so far have been inconclusive and are far from providing strong evidence that supplementation with antioxidants have much impact on chronic disease prevention. There was some positive benefits of beta-carotene on cognitive function in the Physicians’ Health Study after 18 years of follow-up; however most studies are of shorter duration, so few comparisons can be made.

What to do? There is abundant evidence that the first observations of fruit, vegetable and whole grain consumption were correct since subsequent studies have supported the fact that consumption of antioxidants via eating natural whole foods provides protection against many of our common chronic diseases.

Bottom Line: Get your antioxidants from whole, natural foods, not supplements. Research is still limited and results are not conclusive, but supplement companies still claim benefits even though more evidence of safety and efficacy is sorely needed.

CBD: The Facts

CBD: WHAT YOU NEED to KNOW

You may have noticed that cannabidol (CBD) seems to be available almost everywhere you look. No single compound expanded its market in 2019 quite like CBD did. This cannabinoid has the bragging rights for new product diversity, after finding its way into water, lattes, jellybeans, hummus, cosmetics and even doggie treats.

CDB products have claimed to treat or even cure a plethora of ailments such PTSD, cancer, arthritis pain, anxiety, sleep disorders, depression, Crohn’s and opiod addiction to name a few. The question remains: how could a single family of molecules help so many different maladies? The most obvious response is that they might not; all of this research might not pan out.

The FDA has approved only one CBD product, a prescription drug product called Epidiolex to treat two, severe forms of epilepsy. It is currently illegal to market CBD by adding it to a food or labeling it as dietary supplement. Some CBD products are being marketed with unproven medical claims and are of unknown quality.

So far, the FDA has warned about some possible side effects:

  • CBD can cause liver injury.
  •  CBD can affect the metabolism of other drugs, causing serious side effects.
  • Use of CBD can cause changes in alertness, drowsiness, especially with alcohol.
  • CBD can cause changes in mood as agitation and irritability.
  • GI distress, decreased appetite, abdominal pain.
  • There are also disturbing regulation issues like cumulative exposure  and how much is actually in the various products? For example, the FDA has tested the chemical content of some cannabinoid compounds and many were found to NOT contain the levels they claimed. Some have been found to contain pesticides, heavy metals, infective agents, and the neuroactive compound THC, the euphoria -inducing compound in marijuana.
  • A study in JAMA documented that in 84 products sold online, 26% had less CBD than advertised and 43% had more.

In May, the FDA held a public hearing on the safety and efficacy of CBD products. In June, a bipartisan team of legislators introduced a bill aimed to streamline research, and in September, the NIH (National Institutes of Health) announced a $3 million research package to investigate the use of cannabinoids and other cannabis-based, non-THC compounds for pain management.

For a full comprehensive report from the FDA:

Disclaimer: Pop-up advertisements are appearing on this blog  without permission, and Food, Facts, and Fads is not associated with any brand that appears. In my opinion, with the list of side effects that have been associated with these products, it would be prudent to be careful with their use until regulations can be put in place by the FDA. As with all supplements, inform your doctor if you are using any of these products due to interactions with regular prescriptionn  medications.

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