FOOD, FACTS and FADS

Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health


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Probiotics: What We Think We Know?

Yogurt in the Supermarket

In my opinion, there is still not enough research to fully assess the efficacy and/or safety of probiotics.  Probiotic supplements are not regulated by the FDA. It may be prudent to encourage higher intakes of yogurt with live cultures that also provide some essential nutrients – protein and calcium, for example. Check the labels carefully since some yogurts have high sugar contents.

CLICK HERE.


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Super Beets?

Beet Root

Folk lore has placed beets into many Eastern cultures as an excellent liver tonic and blood purifier. Beets contain a very powerful red color from a compound called betacyanin and according to some, claim it is potent cancer fighter. This pigment turns your urine red if enough is consumed – don’t panic -you are not bleeding internally. What are the health benefits of beets and how do they stack up nutritionally?

Beets are good sources of potassium, a vitally important mineral for heart health. We used to consume diets higher in potassium in a potassium-sodium ratio conducive to human health; now this ratio has reversed – and tilted to too much sodium and too little potassium. Potassium is also found in bananas and other fruits,vegetables like potatoes (white and sweet), winter squash, white beans and low-fat yogurt.

Beets are somewhat high in sugar, but not significantly.  Besides they provide us with other needed nutrients. However. diabetics should limit their intake of beets based on their doctor’s advice.

They can be baked or roasted, boiled, steamed, shredded raw and added to salads. The leaves are also nutritious and contain fiber, vitamin A and vitamin C.  Beets can be used in juicing and are best mixed with some combination of carrots, apples, spinach, and ginger.

What is in a serving?

Cooked Beetroot (0.5 cup, cooked, drained, sliced) USDA National Nutrient Database

  • Calories 37
  • Protein 1.4 g.
  • Carbohydrates 8.4 g.
  • Fiber 1.7 g.
  • Potassium 259 mg.
  • Sodium 65 mg.
  • Magnesium 20 mg.
  • Folate 68 DFE

Recently, an advertisement appeared for a product called “Super Beets”: the Circulation Superfood

From their Website, their claims were somewhat vague:

  • Promote Improved Natural Energy
  • Support Healthy Blood Pressure Levels
  • Promoted Improved Stamina

They infer heart health due to its nitrate composition. Dietary nitrates are converted to nitric oxide which may have some cardiovascular benefits.  As far as the Super Beets supplement, the  claim is that 1 shot of Super Beets = 3 Non GMO beets. One canister is $ 39.95.

As with all supplements, there is no FDA approval. However, there is some evidence that beets may be heart healthy and enhance athletic  performance due to its nitrate content. For an excellent review of this topic, click HERE.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Can a Supplement Extend Life?

One of the current theories of aging or longevity is the Telomere Theory. This theory claims that shorter or longer telomeres can predict how long we live. See a previous post HERE. Research tells us that the evidence of lifestyle interventions (diets, supplements, etc) to support these claims is weak. Bottom line: Be skeptical of companies that promote  diets or supplements that promise to affect your telomeres leading to increased health or longevity.

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Dangerous Supplements

Some diet supplements can cause serious harm. This is not surprising due to the fact that the FDA does not require any supplement  be tested for safety or efficacy until a problem occurs.  An internet search showed that this particular product was sold by many online supplement suppliers. Buyer beware!!!

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The Dangers of Herbal Supplements

Folk medicine has used herbs for  centuries to treat and prevent disease. Today, they appear to be more popular than ever. It is estimated that about 1 in 6 Americans use herbs to treat or prevent illnesses. Herbal supplements are relatively inexpensive and easy to obtain – no prescription necessary.  Prescription medicines are tested for safety and efficacy and side effects are clearly available from the manufacturers.

Doses are regulated and standardized and physicians and pharmacists are trained to be aware of drug interactions that may occur that can cause dangerous sometimes fatal results. Herbal preparations have none of these safeguards. Here is what you need to know:

  • Many botanical components are toxic by themselves or in combination with other herbal components.
  • The FDA has issued warnings about ingredients such as comfrey, kava, and aristolochic acid.
    • Ephedra found in many weight loss preparations was found to cause heart attacks and strokes and was removed from the market in 2004. Ephedra extracts not containing ephedrine are not banned (according to Wikipedia) and can be found on the Internet.
  • Herbal supplements are subject to contamination of pesticides, microbes, metals and other toxins.
  • Doses are not thoroughly tested for purity and concentrations.
  • Some supplements should not be taken two to three weeks prior to surgery, e.g. St. John’s wort can prolong and intensity narcotic drug effects.
  • Herbal supplements should not be taken during pregnancy.
  • Do not give herbs to children.
  • Do not use herbs for long periods of time.
  • Do not fall for false health claims made by the manufacturer.

Source:   Smolin, Lori A., Grosvenor, Mary B. Nutrition: Science and Applications, Third Edition.

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Do We Need Dietary Supplements?

March is National Nutrition Month. How ironic that the news this month includes the probability that Gwyneth Paltrow is initiating a new line of vitamin and mineral supplements. In the first place, do we really need another line of diet supplements?   I would also like to know just what are her credentials to offer the consumer any nutritional advice?

According to Dr. Paul Offit, author of Do You Believe in Magic? The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine,  clinical trials have shown no differences in the claimed beneficial effects versus placebo of the following popular supplements: Ginko biloba, St. John’s wort, garlic, saw palmetto, milk thistle, echinacea, or chondroitin sulfate.

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Super Fortified : “Foods” or Supplements?

Should You Get your Nutrients from Super-fortified Foods?

The label on the orange juice container says “calcium added”. The water bottle label says “fortified with vitamin C”; the energy drink s is “fortified with 23 added vitamins and minerals.” Do you need all these extra nutrients ?

These foods may actually act like dietary supplements. If you eat nutritious unprocessed whole foods, you probably do not need fortified foods and even may go over the Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (UL).

The UL is a set of values that are well above the needs of everyone in the population and represents the highest amount of the nutrient that will not cause toxicity symptoms in the majority of healthy people. As intake rises above the UL so does the risk of adverse health effects.

To establish a UL, a specific adverse effect is considered. For example, for niacin, the ill effect is flushing, and for vitamin D it is calcium deposits in soft tissue or kidney damage. For vitamin C it is digestive disturbances. For some nutrients, these values represent intake from supplements alone; for some, intake from supplements and fortified foods, and for others, total intake from foods, fortified food, water and nonfood sources and supplements. For some nutrients, data are insufficient to establish a UL.

ul-calcium-and-vitamin-d

 

“In traditional foods, the amounts of nutrients are small and the way they are combined limits absorption, making the risk of consuming a toxic amount of a nutrient almost nonexistent. On the other hand, this risk rises from eating an excess of a supplement or excessive servings of super-fortified foods.”

Young children may be particularly at risk for toxicity. “A new report says that “millions of children are ingesting potentially unhealthy amounts” of vitamin A, zinc and niacin, with fortified breakfast cereals the leading source of the excessive intake because all three nutrients are added in amounts calculated for adults.”

“Outdated nutritional labeling rules and misleading marketing by food manufacturers who use high fortification levels to make their products appear more nutritious fuel this potential risk, according to the report by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a Washington, D.C.-based health research and advocacy organization.”

For example, if you drank the recommended two to three liters of fluids as water fortified with vitamin C, niacin, vitamin E and vitamins B6 and B12, you would exceed the UL for these vitamins. Then add two cups of fortified breakfast cereal and two protein bars during the day, your risk of toxicity increases even more. In many of these products, you also could be getting a not so healthy dose of sugar. Should we be consuming super-fortified foods without a thought? I think not. For a previous post, click HERE.

Source: Lori A. Smolin, Mary B. Grosvenor, Nutrition: Science and Applications. Third Edition.

Source:  USA Today, Michele Healy, June 24, 2014.