FOOD, FACTS and FADS

Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health


Leave a comment

The Hazards of Diet Supplements

We are a country obsessed with dietary supplements. Try taking them away and see how people resist the idea.  But do we need all those vitamins and minerals- sometimes, especially during key growth periods (pregnancy and childhood)?

So you think that just to be sure, you should take them as insurance against certain diseases. Maybe not. Sometimes excess is not the answer and may become harmful.  A famous example was a study that gave beta carotene  supplements(vitamin A) to smokers. The reason was that beta carotene was thought to be protective against lung cancer since it functions as an antioxidant. The result showed that there were more cases of lung cancer in the vitamin group than in those smokers given a placebo. Subsequent studies supported this finding.

What does the research say? You may be surprised.

Read the article HERE.

 

 

 

Advertisements


Leave a comment

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.


Leave a comment

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Leave a comment

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.

CLICK HERE.


Leave a comment

Magnesium: The Forgotten Nutrient?

foods-high-in-magnesium

Functions of Magnesium

Magnesium is often a neglected nutrient. Low intakes are common and are associated with cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and osteoporosis. Along with an adequate intake of potassium and calcium, these minerals favor a lower risk of hypertension.

50 to 60% of magnesium in the body is found in bone. The rest resides inside the body cells with a small percentage in the blood. It functions in over 300 enzyme systems, many of which involve the release of energy, proper functioning of nerves and muscles including those of the heart and in the many steps of DNA, RNA and protein synthesis. It also affects the metabolism of calcium, sodium and potassium.

How Much Do We Need?

The Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI) is 400 mg for adults and children over the age of 4. The Upper Tolerable Level (UL) is 350 mg from non-diet sources.

An intake below the RDA is commonly seen in the population but a blatant deficiency is rare. The use of diuretics can increase urinary loss and the use of proton pump inhibitors to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease GERD) can interfere with magnesium absorption.

Food Sources

The best food sources are:

Seeds and nuts

Garbanzo beans

Leafy greens like spinach

Processed foods are poor choices. For example, a cup of whole wheat flour contains about 166 mg. of magnesium. When that grain is refined and thus more processed, the white flour only contains 28 mg.

Magnesium Supplements

Since magnesium is not found abundantly in many foods, magnesium supplementation is popular and claimed to be beneficial for just about any disorder.

Research on the role of magnesium in other medical conditions is sparse. For example, magnesium levels in the body may alleviate the effects of osteoporosis. Dietary magnesium may have some benefit, but using supplements does not appear to have the same effect. The same may be true for its role in controlling hypertension. Its claims often include treating anxiety, ADHD, depression, and muscle cramps; however, most research does not report much help from supplements. One common side effect of magnesium supplementation is its laxative effect with some forms. Magnesium taurate and magnesium glycinate appear to not have this effect.

Always tell your doctor about any supplements you take. Dietary supplements are not regulated by the FDA, so buyer beware.