In “Radical thinking on antioxidants” (Chicago Tribune, Oct. 6) there is a useful discussion of the controversial role of antioxidant nutrients in our health. While much of the information presented was fair, there were omissions and inaccurate statements made that should be addressed.
To understand the controversy over antioxidant nutrition, it is important to remember that this particular class of nutrients consists of individual substances that, unlike drugs, do not operate independently in the body. The failure to respect that fact has caused many researchers, especially those assembling and publishing statistical models of supposedly similar already-published studies, to veer way off course from reality. The most common errors include the use of the so called “gold standard” model used for pharmaceutical studies that looks at the intake of an individual substance and is randomized, double-blinded, and placebo controlled. But that model often fails to produce meaningful or consistent results when antioxidant nutrients are involved. Why?
One big problem is that antioxidants are synergistic and depend on one another to survive in a healthy state. A classic example is vitamin C, with a half-life of about 30 minutes. We would all die of scurvy in a few hours if we didn’t have a mechanism for recycling and recharging that spent antioxidant vitamin. That mechanism is antioxidant synergy, where other antioxidants recharge the spent ones so they can continue their essential work in our bodies. Antioxidants that have used one of their electrons to stop a dangerous chain reaction of free radicals ripping electrons from healthy cells –an otherwise uncontrolled electrical spark - can themselves become a problem if they over-accumulate, which is a signal that we lack other types of antioxidants that could restore their antioxidant potential.
Another problem is the tendency of supplement critics to exaggerate their opinions. In this article, a cardiologist reportedly claimed that, “there is little to no data supporting the use of antioxidants to protect against disease.” That can be easily disproven by a cursory look at medical journals. For example, the American Journal of Cardiology reported evidence that “coenzyme Q10 supplementation may decrease muscle pain associated with statin treatment... supplementation may offer an alternative to stopping treatment with these vital drugs.” Another issue of that journal noted that “coenzyme Q10 supplementation in patients with worsening diastolic function with statin therapy improved parameters of diastolic function.” And the Journal of the American College of Cardiology published a referenced Expert Consensus Document that listed evidence for cardiovascular health benefits of antioxidants CoQ10, hawthorn extract, and ginkgo leaf extract.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
In “Radical thinking on antioxidants” (Chicago Tribune, Oct. 6) there is a useful discussion of the controversial role of antioxidant nutrients in our health. While much of the information presented was fair, there were omissions and inaccurate statements made that should be addressed.
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Perimenopause is the time period where the body’s hormone balance is changing; menopause actually marks the one-year anniversary of the cessation of menstrual cycles (menstruation). Most menopause formulas are actually targeted at perimenopause symptoms.
The recent clinical evidence for, and availability of, products that don’t contain soy, isoflavones, or phytoestrogens should greatly help those who won’t or can’t use products containing those components. This now opens the perimenopause category to those who were previously shut out.
This is a strong category but with a lot of competition among products and claims that inevitably leads to some confusion; not only among consumers but for some store personnel, as well. Product information from manufacturers can either clarify or confuse, depending on the message that they’re trying to send: are they trying to tout their own product as better than everyone else’s, or are they accurately representing the science and trying to provide real consumer choice?
Vitex (Vitex agnus castus), or chaste tree berry, contains small amounts of Agnusides, the active component of chaste berry. Chaste berry extract has been researched to corroborate traditional usage for supporting healthy female hormonal levels during menopause.
Dong Quai (Angelica sinensis) root is a traditional herb for female hormonal support, but has not been historically used for perimenopause/menopause.
Ipriflavone (7-isopropoxy-isoflavone) is a natural-identical soy-free isoflavone (bioflavonoid) that supports bone health, helps maintain healthy bone density, and supports post-menopausal calcium metabolism.
Natural Progesterone Skin Cream typically provides 20 mg of Natural Progesterone USP per use. Look for products with no artificial colors or fragrances that are paraben-free. Synthetic progesterone is not nature-identical.
Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa) is an herb that has been traditionally used by Native Americans to alleviate the symptoms of menopause and other female complaints.
Red Clover (Trifolium pratense) is an herb particularly rich in biologically active compounds called phytoestrogens that are recognized for their role in the support of healthy estrogen levels.
Soy Isoflavones are naturally occurring phytoestrogen plant compounds (Genistein, Daidzein and Glycitein) that are particularly concentrated in soybeans and which support high or low estrogen levels.
Pharmaceutical Drugs, including synthetic forms of female hormones, have side effects that may contraindicate their use since they are isolated synthetic substances, so many women prefer to avoid them. Since the normal change of life is not a disease state, the use of traditional natural substances to manage health makes sense to most people.
Women need to carefully review any label cautions and interactions, as well as the usage suggestions, to avoid any known interactions with medications. Even if no interactions have been noted, caution should be used when adding any new substance, however natural, to a medication regime.
People often mistakenly think that all estrogen compounds are alike. However, phytoestrogens are plant-based food compounds found in virtually all legumes that are about 1,000 times weaker than the usual circulating body-produced estrogen forms. That difference and the source makes plant estrogens much safer. Even soy isoflavones, which are phytoestrogens, have some key differences from endogenous estrogens formed in the body: much like cruciferous vegetables, soy isoflavones may actually prevent the conversion of estrogens into harmful forms (like 16α-hydroxyestrone), promote their breakdown by Phase II detoxification, and increase their excretion in the urine.
Another myth is that symptoms of perimenopause can all be treated the same. Everyone’s hormone levels are unique and complicated, so not every product will work for every person. Some trial and error may be required, and some consumers elect to have their hormone levels checked to help them choose which products are most likely to be right for them.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
The balance of fatty acids in the body can promote inflammatory or non-inflammatory states. Higher amounts of omega-3 fats in the diet have been shown to modulate inflammation and keep it within healthy ranges. The various cellular and tissue damage that can occur from chronic inflammatory states are certainly not healthful. This basic mechanism of action implies a wide-ranging and powerful effect of omega-3 fats to support wellness. Additionally, these fats are part of brain and nerve structures, so they help to maintain the health of those tissues, as well.
Omega-3 and omega-6 fats have been called “essential fatty acids” since the body can’t manufacture them from other fats, as it typically can for other types of fat. The optimal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats is somewhere between 1:1 and 3:1. The common American diet has been estimated to be over 15:1, a marked deviation from a healthy norm.
The benefits of most other non-omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil are not well-defined in the scientific literature. Fish oil naturally contains a range of fats, including cholesterol, triglycerides, and stearic acid. The ones that are considered less desirable, cholesterol and triglycerides, are sometimes removed from fish oils to further concentrate the omega-3 portion and allow higher strengths in fewer capsules.
All natural oils contain various mixtures of fatty acids in varying amounts. Omega-9 fats are best known as being abundant in Olive Oil, and are considered non-inflammatory and especially healthy if substituted for most omega-6 fats that are pro-inflammatory. Some natural oils are fairly well balanced, such as flax and hemp seed oils, or walnut oil. Others, like fish oil, tend to be predominantly omega-3. Most vegetable oils are mostly omega-6 fats and their predominance in the modern diet has been blamed for some of our poor health.
Some consumers do know about various sources of fish oil, and some have advantages or disadvantages. For example salmon is a favored source of omega-3 fats, though salmon oil typically contains less than other common fish oils. Traditional fish sources may be better accepted by those who won’t or can’t eat shellfish. The fisheries in Norway and Peru are among the best managed traditional fisheries on earth.
Krill, a small crustacean shellfish, is a unique source of omega-3 fats since krill also naturally bonds the fatty acids to phospholipids, which are essential for cell membranes and which enhance the bioavailability of the oil. Krill oil also contains the powerful antioxidant pigment astaxanthin, which is responsible for the color of shrimp and salmon. Krill is considered the best managed fishery in the world, with trained observers on each boat monitoring the harvest. The krill harvest limit can be rapidly adjusted to support a healthy population, and the total world harvest (most of which goes into pet foods) is only a fraction of the allowable sustainable harvest level.
Monday, August 01, 2011
These ingredients, both singly and as thyroid support formulas, are in demand by consumers wanting to assure adequate thyroid function in times of dietary insufficiencies and various stresses. Of course, these nutrients and their many functions in the body have a host of potential benefits to those supplementing with them if they may not get adequate amounts from their diet for their individual requirements.
- Zoeller RT, Tan SW, Tyl RW. General background on the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid (HPT) axis. Crit Rev Toxicol. 2007 Jan-Feb;37(1-2):11-53. Review. PubMed PMID: 17364704.
- Arthur JR, Beckett GJ. Thyroid function. Br Med Bull. 1999;55(3):658-68. Review. PubMed PMID: 10746354.
Wednesday, July 06, 2011
Re: “Support Is Mutual for Senator and Utah Industry” (The Champions, June 20, New York Times)
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
The brain must be intact and healthy in order for it to perform normal functions like thought and memory. There is evidence that chronic or acute inflammation, or other insults to brain cells/tissues from chemicals or other damaging agents, can provoke negative health effects. In essence, the brain is literally under attack on a daily basis, requiring a constant infusion of supporting protective nutrients to maintain proper brain health and functionality.
Antioxidants and magnesium are key nutrients needed to protect the brain from chemicals called excitotoxins, such as MSG, which are damaging to brain cells when levels of various nutrients are insufficient to control them. The physical damage to brain cells that can be caused by oxidation, sometimes in the form of a bio-electrical spark causing a chain reaction that rips electrons from a string of innocent cells until an antioxidant ‘electron donor’ puts an end to it, can be prevented or stopped by antioxidants. Antioxidants also protect fats from oxidizing (going rancid), and since the brain is nearly half fat it is dependent on both fatty acids and antioxidants to protect its structural integrity.
While it is normally not necessary to see a physician before taking a brain/memory support dietary supplement, people on medications should always check if there are known interactions before using any new supplement and it is wise to always bring a list of your supplements to share with your doctor at your annual check-up. Those with known memory problems should request a medical evaluation to set a baseline level in order to maintain their mental assets and be able to compare future mental performance.
To aid this preservation of our mental faculties, it is obviously best to consume adequate levels of relevant protective nutrients for many years, rather than waiting until the senility of old age creeps up on us and then trying to regain lost abilities. Otherwise, careful eating and appropriate supplementation may be started ‘too little, too late.’
The best mental/brain support nutrients include some surprisingly ordinary ingredients: Lecithin, Vitamins A-E, and Antioxidants. Lecithin provides essential phospholipids for the brain, nerves, and cell membranes; including Choline, Serine, and other brain nutrients that directly support neurotransmitter production and memory. Lecithin’s Phosphatidyl Choline (PC) is a precursor of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine; in the central nervous system acetylcholine is involved in learning, memory, and mood. Phosphatidylserine (PS) also affects the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain related to mood, memory, and mental function.
Lecithin, which is a highly processed extract of soybean oil, does not in itself contain protein (allergens) or genetic material (GMOs), which the original soybeans may have contained. Some Lecithin products are derived from certified non-GMO soybeans or even sunflower seeds.
Another way to get Lecithin’s benefits is in the form of Krill Oil. Krill has its Omega-3 fatty acids bonded to phospholipids similar to those found in soy or egg lecithin. So krill not only supplies EPA, DHA, and phospholipids for brain, nerve, and membrane health but also enhances their bioavailability and access to the brain due to the ability of phospholipids to cross the blood-brain barrier better than ordinary fish oils. Fish Oils providing EPA and DHA should also be considered brain nutrients, as DHA is a significant physical component of the brain.
Vitamin E and its related compounds (the tocotrienols) have been shown to protect neurons (brain and nerve cells) from being damaged or even killed off by excitotoxic chemicals. The antioxidant benefits of this essential vitamin’s “family” of compounds also help to prevent oxidative reactions that can damage brain tissues. Look for gamma-tocopherol along with the usual alpha-tocopherol plus higher amounts of gamma- and delta- form tocotrienols.
Vitamin C directly pumps excitotoxins from neurons, protecting the brain and nerve cells from being damaged by these potentially toxic chemicals. There are several populations with impaired ascorbate absorption; including those with poor insulin sensitivity, those with gut inflammation, those who take aspirin, and those on low sodium diets; all situations where normal vitamin C uptake and utilization is often suboptimal.
Other antioxidants of benefit for brain health include Alpha Lipoic Acid, various carotenoids including Astaxanthin (also found in Krill oil), and Pycnogenol®. In addition to supplementation, it always helps to consume a variety of antioxidants from fruits and vegetables to maintain a good level and balance of antioxidants.
The formation of abnormal structures in the brain may in part be due to oxidative damage that perhaps can be kept within normal acceptable ranges by having a variety of antioxidant nutrients available. Genes in the subject cells are controlled by “switches,” that are in turn modulated by environmental “triggers.” The presence of various protective nutrients helps to maintain proper cellular health; whereas the deficiency of adequate protective nutrients can allow potentially damaging effects, leading to cell death and the subsequent formation of abnormal brain structures.
The presence of excessive amounts of saturated fats in the diet, especially if from an excess of processed foods, inevitably reduces the amount of available long-chain fatty acids EPA and DHA (DHA can be made from EPA) that are essential for brain and nerve health. The deficit of these two fatty acids increases the likelihood of uncontrolled inflammatory processes in the body, as an imbalance of beneficial dietary fats like EPA, DHA and GLA that can reduce the fatty acids needed to make prostaglandins responsible for maintaining a healthy inflammatory response. The fact that EPA is needed for healthy membranes throughout the body and DHA is an important constituent of the brain itself also testify to the importance of these fatty acids for healthy brain structures and functions, including memory.
• Natural antioxidant vitamins Beta-Carotene, C, and E are protective of brain tissues and are available in antioxidant formulas and multiple vitamins..
• Alpha GPC is a form of choline that is bioavailable to the brain; an acetylcholine precursor, it supports memory and cognitive acuity.
• DMAE is a naturally occurring amino metabolite known primarily as a precursor to choline and acetylcholine, chemicals in the brain responsible for nerve transmissions and cognitive function; DMAE has been used most predominantly to improve memory and focus while stimulating neural activity.
• NADH is a metabolite of niacin (vitamin B3) that is directly involved in neurotransmitter production to support mental alertness.
• Ginkgo biloba extract is thought to improve memory and quality of life, and is available in various strengths.
• Acetyl-L-Carnitine is a form of an important amino acid, which in short-term studies has improved memory in older adults.
• Vitamin B1 deficiencies have been associated with confusion and memory loss in seniors deficient in that nutrient.
• High strength fish oils and Krill oil supply the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA that are important brain and nerve components often deficient in the general population.
• Genistein, a phytoestrogen found in Soy Protein Isolates and Soy Isoflavones, has been shown to act as an antioxidant to preserve brain cell integrity.
• Ashwagandha has been shown to be protective of brain cells in non-clinical laboratory experiments.
Friday, June 10, 2011
Saturday, May 21, 2011
Essential oils are by definition produced in one of two ways:
- Steam distillation (most herbs)
- Cold pressing (citrus and a few herbs)
Different brands of essential oils made from the same species of plant made appropriately by either of the two methods listed above are by definition the same grade. Of course, like any botanical, the sensory qualities but not the basic chemistry of a species can change a bit depending on where it's grown, just as olives and grapes do, without affecting quality or grade.
There are three basic analytical tests to determine quality and identity of essential oils:
- Sensory testing performed by trained testers
- Infrared spectrum analysis (IR) that produces a chemical fingerprint of the oil
- Gas chromatography (GC) that produces a separation and quantification of individual chemical components in the oil
If the original plant is edible then the essential oil is by definition food grade. Some examples are the citrus oils, peppermint, oregano, etc. If the plant is not edible then the oil is also not considered food grade; as with cedarwood, pennyroyal, or ylang ylang. Due to the small bottle size and the need for cautions, there is not typically a food label on these oils.
Much caution needs to be taken with these oils, as they are extremely concentrated and most can burn the skin and mouth if not diluted adequately, even if food grade. Don't swig them or apply undiluted to the skin if you don't know how to use the specific type of oil in question.
I gave a presentation on "Health Benefits of Wholegrain Diets" April 20th in Beijing: This 2-day Whole Grain Forum was part of the Third International Nutrition & Healthy Industry Expo organized by the Center for Public Nutrition and Development of China (PNDC) of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), along with US-based Grains for Health Fdtn and Whole Grains Council.
Posted by Neil E. Levin, CCN, DANLA at 10:11 PM
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
• Protein: 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight
• Calcium: Over 1 gram per day
• Magnesium: 310 – 420 mg per day
• Zinc: 15 mg per day
• Copper: 2.5 to 3 mg per day
• Boron: 3 mg per day
• Manganese: 5 mg per day
• Potassium: 3,500 to 4,000 mg per day
• Vitamin D: over 500 IU daily
• Vitamin K: Levels are not well understood; at least 90 mcg/d for women and 120 mcg/d for men
• Vitamin C: over 500 mg daily
• Vitamin A: 2333 IU in women and 3000 IU in men; avoid low and excessive amounts
Palacios C. The role of nutrients in bone health, from A to Z. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2006;46(8):621-8. Review. PubMed PMID: 17092827.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Everyone living in our modern world experiences stress, and if our ability to adequately control it diminishes so does our ability to get a good night’s sleep. Sleep time allows repair and recovery to occur, both mental and physical. The inability to recover from chronic stress can increase stress-related eating habits with a subsequent accumulation of abdominal fat on the one hand, and lead to physical and emotional exhaustion on the other. In fact, the deprivation of sound sleep is a common complaint that is associated with a lack of energy. Energy deficits can lead to a diminished immune response. So we see a host of common complaints that can be at least partially attributed to a lack of sleep and the causes thereof.
The lack of a good night’s sleep can be related to a lack of melatonin; a natural hormone made from the amino acid l-tryptophan and its metabolite 5-HTP. Melatonin is formed from serotonin, a metabolite of 5-HTP that is made in the pineal gland during darkness…this means that falling asleep in a bright room, or in front of the TV, may leave one less than fully engaged in sleep and its several stages of healthy brain waves that allow true relaxation to occur. Melatonin is also an antagonist of the aforementioned stress hormone cortisol, and so adequate darkness/sleep/melatonin production is a key factor in controlling chronic stress and its negative effects on the body.
The adrenal glands help the body respond and adjust to stress generated from both internal and external forces. Under chronic stress, cortisol can be overproduced, resulting in weight gain and difficulty in managing healthy blood sugar levels. Adaptogenic herbs help the body to manage the negative effects of stress, such as excess abdominal fat deposition, overeating, and low energy levels.
We see specific sleep solutions that are targeted to enhance certain normal mechanisms; for example, to reduce cortisol and/or increase melatonin to maintain them within healthy levels. Another strategy is to add certain amino acids that are precursors of relaxing or inhibitory neurotransmitters. And some people prefer to utilize individual herbs, while others prefer to take a formula combining multiple mechanisms.
Kava Kava helps people to relax but does not act as a strong sedative. Kava has been used by people to stay calm before taking a test and may support mental focus and calmness.
The essential mineral Magnesium has long been used, sometimes with Calcium, to relax muscles. Magnesium also has an effect to relax overstimulated brain neurons by acting against those excitotoxic states.
L-Theanine is an amino acid found commonly in green tea. L-Theanine promotes relaxation without the drowsiness or negative side effects associated with some other calming agents. L-Theanine also supports healthy cardiovascular function through this relaxing effect, as well as its antioxidant properties.
L-Tryptophan and 5-HTP products are available in various strengths; make sure that the one you buy has been safety, identity, and potency tested. These amino acids are precursors of the important neurotransmitter serotonin, as well as its metabolite melatonin. Melatonin is used by the body to regulate sleep cycles, as an antioxidant, and as an anti-stress aid; in addition to other wide-ranging health effects on the human body.
Relora® is an all-natural proprietary blend of plant extracts from Magnolia officinalis and Phellodendron amurense herbs that helps to control cortisol. Relora® is a safe, non-sedating formula that can help to alleviate symptoms associated with stress such as nervous tension, irritability, concentration difficulties and occasional sleeplessness. The relaxing effect of Relora® can thereby help to control appetite and prevent stress-related eating, aiding in weight control.
100% pure Essential Oils have long been used for aromatherapy, including some oils known to be relaxing. Whether using these oils to sniff, use with reed or other diffusers, blending into carrier oils (almond, olive, apricot kernel, etc.) for massage, or adding a few drops to bath water or potpourri, many people find some of these powerful oils to be very relaxing. Lavender, Chamomile, Marjoram, and Germanium Oils are especially soothing and relaxing.
Some supplements are safe to take daily; for example, the gentler stress vitamins, Chamomile tea, essential oils used in aromatherapy. It is best to be more cautious with stronger herbal and amino formulas, though there’s no strict rule of thumb on how long to take them. Chronic stress may need to be dealt with for many months, resisting a quick fix. On the other hand, one can often cut the melatonin dose down after a month or two of resetting the sleep cycle.
People may not sleep due to a number of factors, and their individual stressors makes it more difficult to figure out which products may help them to normalize their sleep and minimize their stress. Matching the person to the solution is always the biggest challenge, and some trial and error may need to be factored in before a solution is found.
For some products, like melatonin, chewables and liquids may be popular. For herbal formulas, capsules and liquids dominate, but we find that the chewables and capsules sell best for melatonin. Aminos tend to be in powders, chewables, and capsules, with the occasional tablet form.
Sometimes obvious things like limiting caffeine, setting nighttime winding down rituals, and creating a calm space for sleep can be helpful.
A normal piece of fruit may have hundreds of ORAC units, a laboratory measure of antioxidant activity in a test tube. A “superfruit” may have tens of times higher antioxidant activity than our common fruits. Part of the reason for this is the environmental conditions of superfruits: some of them come from rainforests; others from more arid regions. It has been shown in studies that plants make antioxidants in response to environmental challenges such as droughts, variations in nutrient availability, competition with weeds, attacks by molds or bugs, lack of or excess sunlight, and other substandard conditions that are less common in modern chemical agricultural farming. This makes non-conventional crops more nutritious, especially in antioxidant nutrients like polyphenols that have only been compared to conventional crops for about a decade.
ORAC units, being a measure of test tube activity, may not be an ideal way to measure antioxidant potential in a food. However, it does give us a comparative measure of antioxidant compounds in various foods. The fact that these numbers may not accurately reflect their ability to act as antioxidants in the human body has become an issue, but until we get a better measure, or determine exactly which compounds measured by ORAC are used in what ways, this imperfect method still gives us a useful yardstick for nutritional density related to the foods’ antioxidant potential.
Naturally, numerous factors will affect the price and availability of superfruits including long supply chains, weather, transport costs, supply-and-demand, etc. Several superfruits are predicted to have an enduring market presence: Acai, Goji, Mangosteen, Noni, and Pomegranate. Maqui berries possess among the highest known ORAC value (Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity) of any superfruit. Maqui berries are purple berries rich in anthocyanins.
It’s important to realize that rainforest fruits play a role in preserving tropical rain forests. If the indigenous people can make a living by harvesting wild fruit from mature trees, rather than finding it advantageous to clear cut to farm corn and soybeans, you can see that their vested interest would lie in protecting that forest from developers. Wildcrafted fruit would tend to be more nutritious in antioxidants than orchard-grown fruit, based on the results of comparative studies showing that environmental diversity protects and challenges the plants to produce protective phytochemicals that serve as human nutrients. Of course, these superfruits are not necessarily locally sourced, but they are extremely nutritious and do help to preserve the rainforests.
It’s important to note that the federal government refuses to recognize “structure-function” claims made on foods, which do not have DSHEA protections. You’ve probably heard that food companies touting the benefits of their own superfoods – cherries, fortified OJ, probiotics, pomegranate juice – have been targeted by federal agencies enforcing their rules that all food claims go through the tedious approval process of publishing in the Federal Register, etc. In this regard one can make more claims on a dietary supplement label – if properly documented – than on a food label.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
What is iodine?
Iodine (I) is a mineral that is essential to human health, which we use to make the thyroid hormones thyroxine (T3) and triiodothyronine (T4). These hormones regulate our metabolism, synthesis of protein, enzymatic activity, and other biochemical reactions. They are also essential to unborn children’s and infants’ development of skeletal and nervous systems. Iodine deficiencies cause goiter; an enlargement of the gland. In addition to thyroid functions, iodine has a role in immunity, including breast health. 
How do we absorb iodine?
The element iodine is a gas, but we ingest it as a solid salt and that compound is known as iodide. For example, the potassium salt form of iodine is known as potassium iodide (KI). Iodine readily absorbs (about 96%) in the upper intestine (stomach and duodenum). 
How much iodine should we normally have?
• 100–199 mcg/L in children and adults
• 150–249 mcg/L in pregnant women
• Over 100 mcg/L in lactating women
Values lower than 100 mcg/L in children and non-pregnant adults indicate insufficient iodine intake, and urinary iodine levels lower than 20 mcg/L are considered severe deficiencies.
The US RDA for iodine is:
Table 1: Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for Iodine 
- Birth to 6 months 110 mcg*
- 7-12 months 130 mcg*
- 1-3 years 90 mcg
- 4-8 years 90 mcg
- 9-13 years 120 mcg
- 14-18 years 150 mcg
- 14-18 years Pregnant 220 mcg
- 14-18 years Lactation 290 mcg
- 19+ years 150 mcg
- 19+ years Pregnant 220 mcg
- 19+ years Lactation 290 mcg
However, international health agencies recommend that pregnant women get 250 mcg daily.
Typically, mountainous areas and areas subject to flooding have lower soil levels of iodine. Cruciferous vegetables are goitrogenic (inhibit the thyroid’s absorption of iodine), as are deficiencies of vitamin A or iron.
It takes numerous grams (one gram = 1,000 mg or 1,000,000 mcg) of iodine to cause overt toxicity, though side effects are possible at lower amounts. As with some other vitamins and minerals, symptoms of excess mimic those of deficiency. For iodine, these include goiter, elevated thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) from the pituitary gland, and hypothyroidism (low thyroid function).
This table from the Institute of Medicine lists maximum recommended levels of supplemental iodine. These levels reflect a comfortable safety margin and few people would have side effects from taking iodine up to the amounts shown. In the event of a radiation emergency, higher amounts may be recommended by public health authorities.
Table 3: Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (ULs) for Iodine 
- Birth to 6 months Not possible to establish*
- 7–12 months Not possible to establish*
- 1–3 years 200 mcg
- 4–8 years 300 mcg
- 9–13 years 600 mcg
- 14–18 years 900 mcg
- 19+ years 1,100 mcg
Additionally, potassium iodide supplements may interact with some drugs including anti-thyroid medications used to fight overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism), certain blood pressure medicines (angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors), and potassium-sparing diuretics. 
What are the causes of possible exposure to radioactive iodine?
Radioactive iodine-129 (I-129) and iodine-131 (I-131) are produced by the fission of uranium atoms during the operation of nuclear reactors. Iodine-129 is also formed as a result of nuclear weapon explosions, the source of most of the radioactive iodine in our environment. 
How is radioactive iodine dangerous to human and animal health?
The body uses both normal (“stable”) and radioactive iodine, not being able to distinguish between them. Radioactive iodine can cause thyroid problems, yet it is also used to help diagnose and treat certain thyroid problems. Long-term exposure to radioactive iodine can cause nodules or cancer of the thyroid, but treatment with high doses of I-131 (the rapidly decaying one) may be used to treat thyroid cancer. Doctors also use lower doses of I-131 to treat overactive thyroids. 
How long is radioactive iodine dangerous?
While iodine-129 persists in the environment for millions of years, iodine-131 has a half-life (the time it takes for it to decay to 50% of the original amount) of only 8 days and will decay completely within months. Radioactive iodine is water soluble and can be ingested by drinking it in contaminated water, inhaling it as an airborne gas, eating produce that has it on the surface, eating fish that have absorbed it from the water, or from consuming milk or meat from animals that have eaten plants exposed to radioactive iodine. While iodine mainly collects in the thyroid gland, where it has a half-life of about 100 days, there are iodine receptors in other parts of the body - such as bone, kidney, spleen, and reproductive organs – where it has much shorter half-lives. 
What do public health authorities recommend to limit absorption of radioactive iodine?
In emergencies large doses of stable iodine are used to flood the bloodstream to help prevent the thyroid gland from taking up radioactive iodine, since raising the concentration of stable iodine in circulation would make it far less likely that the gland will absorb much radioactive iodine. These very high doses of stable iodine are not intended for daily use and may be hazardous for some people. 
What are good sources of stable iodine?
High dose potassium iodide in pills or capsules is the form given when public health authorities distribute iodine to populations at risk of radiation exposure.
Seafood, including fish and seaweed, and dairy products (due to fortified feed and iodine-based sanitation products used in milking, but the use of both of these are reportedly on the decline) provide significant amounts of stable iodine in the diet, but not enough to block the entry of radioactive iodine into the thyroid gland when an emergency is present.
Seaweeds have a flaw in that they typically contain less that 1% iodine by dry weight and also may contain undesirable heavy metals that are considered safe at recommended levels. In other words, don’t rely on kelp or dulse for much more than the RDA, or at most the UL (see above), because the levels of arsenic or other metals might also rise enough to become potential health hazards.
Iodized salt also provides essential iodine that can compete with radioactive iodine; a 1.5 gram serving (about ¼ teaspoon) provides about 71 mcg of iodine. Processed foods rarely use iodized salt, which must be declared on the label. However, there is only enough iodine in iodized salt to nourish the thyroid gland, not enough to exclude radioactive iodine from entering and causing harm. [1, 3]
Large doses of stable iodine reportedly protect the thyroid from accumulating radioactive iodine by competitively excluding that form because the thyroid is already full of stable iodine.
How much iodine should I take, and when?
“According to the FDA, the following doses are appropriate to take after internal contamination with (or likely internal contamination with) radioactive iodine:
•Adults should take 130 mg (one 130 mg tablet OR two 65 mg tablets OR two mL of solution).
•Women who are breastfeeding should take the adult dose of 130 mg.
•Children between 3 and 18 years of age should take 65 mg (one 65 mg tablet OR 1 mL of solution). Children who are adult size (greater than or equal to 150 pounds) should take the full adult dose, regardless of their age.
•Infants and children between 1 month and 3 years of age should take 32 mg (½ of a 65 mg tablet OR ½ mL of solution). This dose is for both nursing and non-nursing infants and children.
•Newborns from birth to 1 month of age should be given 16 mg (¼ of a 65 mg tablet or ¼ mL of solution). This dose is for both nursing and non-nursing newborn infants.
A single dose of KI protects the thyroid gland for 24 hours. A one-time dose at the levels recommended in this fact sheet is usually all that is needed to protect the thyroid gland. In some cases, radioactive iodine might be in the environment for more than 24 hours. If that happens, local emergency management or public health officials may tell you to take one dose of KI every 24 hours for a few days. You should do this only on the advice of emergency management officials, public health officials, or your doctor. Avoid repeat dosing with KI for pregnant and breastfeeding women and newborn infants. Those individuals may need to be evacuated until levels of radioactive iodine in the environment fall.” 
Taking a higher dose of KI, or taking KI more often than recommended, does not offer more protection and can cause severe illness or death.
When public health or emergency management officials tell the public to take KI following a radiologic or nuclear event, the benefits of taking this drug outweigh the risks. This is true for all age groups. Some general side effects caused by KI may include intestinal upset, allergic reactions (possibly severe), rashes, and inflammation of the salivary glands.
When taken as recommended, KI causes only rare adverse health effects that specifically involve the thyroid gland. In general, you are more likely to have an adverse health effect involving the thyroid gland if you
•take a higher than recommended dose of KI,
•take the drug for several days, or
•have pre-existing thyroid disease.
Newborn infants (less than 1 month old) who receive more than one dose of KI are at particular risk for developing a condition known as hypothyroidism (thyroid hormone levels that are too low). If not treated, hypothyroidism can cause brain damage. Infants who receive KI should have their thyroid hormone levels checked and monitored by a doctor. Avoid repeat dosing of KI to newborns.
Limitations of large dose stable iodine 
• Stable iodine may protect the thyroid if taken at the right time and at a high dose. However, it is not proven to protect other parts of the body and stable iodine does not block the radioactive form from the body.
• That limited protection for the thyroid from taking high dose stable iodine only lasts for about 24 hours.
• Stable iodine does not protect the body from any other radioactive materials that may be in the environment.
People in other countries, such as the United States, will not experience the amount of radiation that those in the immediate vicinity of the nuclear plants could. Since the high-dose potassium iodide (KI) works to protect the thyroid gland only for about 24 hours, it is probably wise to wait for a specific event to actually take that pill. Meanwhile, a reasonable daily dose of iodine within tolerable upper limit (UL) levels (between 200-1,100 mcg; see above) is probably wise to maintain some level of protection against potential low level increases in airborne radioactive iodine and to assure adequate levels in the thyroid so it’s not so anxious to take in whatever form is circulating in the body and there is plenty of the stable form available. High-dose seaweeds like kelp and dulse may also provide heavy metals in excess of safety recommendations and should only be taken at levels closer to the RDA.
Monday, March 07, 2011
The awareness of EFAs, especially the Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, is large and growing larger. The accumulating mountain of evidence and the endorsement by popular health “gurus” assures continued growth in this important product category. As the benefits of specific fatty acids for regulation of various healthy body functions – such as inflammatory processes, hormonal health, and maintaining brain/nerve/cellular structures – becomes even more well known, more and more people recognize the potential for EFAs to positively affect their health.
While there are combination products that deliver Omega-3, Omega-6, and Omega-9 fatty acids together, the focus has been more on specific sources such as fish or flax, along with some more unusual ones. Of course, natural oil sources are not comprised of a single fatty acid. For example, natural fish oil can not only supply EPA and DHA but also originally supplies ALA, cholesterol, triglycerides, and other fatty acids; though many of these components can be removed during processing to provide purer and stronger materials that are richer in EPA and DHA to require far fewer capsules to reach desired levels of these two fractions. Flax oil is best known as a vegetarian source of the omega-3 fatty acid ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), but ALA levels are only about 55% of the total; flax oil also contains about 19% omega-9 as oleic acid, 14% omega-6 as linoleic acid, and 12% saturated fats. The conversion of ALA to EPA is a significant metabolic hurdle. Women do this conversion better than men; people who consume the most omega-6 in their diets have a more difficult time converting ALA to EPA. Typically between 5% and 15% of ALA converts to EPA and about 2% to 5% of ALA converts to DHA, making flax a much more dilute and less certain source of EPA-DHA.
Fish oil is subject to environmental concerns related to both sustainability and contaminants. Manufacturers audit their suppliers and set strict identity/safety specifications to assure the quality of products.
Most fish oils are molecularly distilled to remove contaminants, manufactured under strict quality assurance standards, and screened to be free of potentially harmful levels of contaminants and heavy metals, such as mercury, PCB’s, dioxins, and others.
Other types of EFAs include Flax seed oil, Evening Primrose Oil, Pumpkin seed oil, Black Currant seed oil, Wheat Germ oil, Castor Oil, and Virgin Coconut Oil.
Purity, potency, and freshness are always the challenges with EFAs.
The trend is toward more concentrated products of higher purity that allow people to get their EPA and DHA with smaller quantities of capsules or less volume of liquid. Liquids and smaller capsule sizes allow more children and seniors to enjoy the benefits of fish oils, while high strength capsules better hit the main demographic in between.
All fish oil supplements are typically hundreds of times safer than eating a serving of fish in relation to environmental factors; and typical esterified products have the added benefit of being free of cholesterol and triglycerides, which are undesirable food components for those with high cholesterol. By far, most of the studies proving the health benefits of supplemental fish oils have been with the esterified (ethyl ester) form, rather than the triglyceride form found in cold water fatty fish. There is very strong science supporting the use of this form.
Esterified fish oils also have been shown to sustain human serum levels better than the triglyceride form, over both a 24-hour period and a one-month period, which better supports a healthy heart rhythm. Notably, the most concentrated products are available only as esterified fatty acids. The ability of a consumer to get the 1-3 grams daily of EPA + DHA recommended by many health experts is enhanced by modern formulas that concentrate these essential fatty acids into fewer capsules and smaller serving sizes with fewer undesirable components, thus increasing customer compliance with a healthy nutritional protocol.
Both triglyceride and esterified ethyl ester fish oils are available in the marketplace, and both forms have their advocates. In the body, both forms must first be digested, stripping off the triglycerides or ethyl esters and leaving only free fatty acids that can be readily absorbed. These free fatty acids are then combined with triglycerides present in the liver before entering general circulation; so the circulating form will actually be the triglyceride form, no matter which form of fish oil one consumes. Both forms provide great value and important nutrients for the consumer; but the triglyceride form has no more proven value than the ethyl ester form, despite some excessive marketing claims.
Weight management products have long been an important category for natural product retailers, partially because it is such a problem for many people to control their weight but also since many people shop in these stores because they want to use natural products that are free of potentially risky pharmaceuticals. As a gateway category for transitional shoppers that may be new to health food stores, weight management products become an important gauge of a commitment to meeting these people’s needs and thus keeping them as customers willing to try other products. Of course, nutritionists will suggest a comprehensive diet and supplement plan, rather than relying on “magic bullet” single products.
Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) regulations have gone into effect over the past several years, raising the bar on manufacturers’ quality control practices. At the same time, mandatory Adverse Event Reporting (AER) was also implemented. Both of these regulatory mechanisms should increase consumer confidence and belie the myth that the industry is “unregulated”.
I believe that the glut of stories about Americans being overweight tends to make people more aware of their own lack of exercise and dietary restraint, which contribute to their excess weight. Of course, health scares and medical crises also alert people to their mortality and tend to motivate healthy dietary and other lifestyle changes. Today’s youth-obsessed media makes people want to look young and fit even past middle age. Plastic surgery, being expensive and with some risks, is far from a perfect solution. There are no shortcuts to health, only natural aids to good health. The very visible failures of both diet drugs and illegal products pretending to be dietary supplements illustrate the depth of the market and the need for effective natural weight management products.
Consumers tend to look for something that was recommended to them, either by a person or an authority. The person could be a family member, co-worker, or an acquaintance. The authority could be someone cited in the media, on the Internet, or a trusted trainer or health professional. Top categories are controlling appetite (satiety), increasing metabolism (thermogenics), and blocking the absorption of certain food components such as carbohydrates or fats (nutrient blockers).
Natural foods and fibers are part of the solution to maintaining healthy weight and blood sugar. These foods would include whole grains as well as fibers from various sources. Some of these fibers are gluten-free and/or organic, such as Flax, Acacia, Inulin, and Psyllium. Fibers also help satiety, the feeling of being full.
Consumers today are more concerned about the quality and safety of diet support products, so are looking for assurances of adequate quality controls and testing. Some parts of this process include method validation and development, stability testing, identity testing, microbiological testing, heavy metal testing, specification development, overseeing production, procuring samples and preparing them for testing, and even raw material vendor audits.
Friday, March 04, 2011
A study found that about 1/4 of all otherwise normal infants have evidence of infantile rickets while still in the womb. It is likely that tens of thousands of infants are being sent home from the hospital with multiple fractures because no one has ever done a study looking for asymptomatic fractures.
Mahon P, et al. Low maternal vitamin D status and fetal bone development: cohort study. J Bone Miner Res. 2010 Jan;25(1):14-9.
Tuesday, February 08, 2011
This interview was given to Whole Foods Magazine, excerpts were published in the February 2011 issue:
Despite evidence in recent medical journals, including several review studies calling for a far higher RDA and UL (upper limit) that would be five times the previous levels, the IOM held true to its conservative bent and raised the RDA and the UL; but only by 50% by only 100%, respectively . Observers are somewhat disappointed, but not really surprised. The most controversial part of the IOM committee’s report is that the only proven role for vitamin D is in bone and calcium metabolism, combined with its finding that most Americans already get enough for those benefits. That should come as news to researchers from Mayo Clinic operating under an NIH grant who recently reported that “Vitamin D insufficiency is common globally and in the United States. Approximately 25-50% of patients seen in routine clinical practice have vitamin D levels below the optimal range…” It also should be news to European regulators that recognize vitamin D’s beneficial effects on muscles, immunity, inflammation, cellular health, and reproduction. We recognize the new increased recommendations for vitamin D and the new higher safety recommendation, but believe that these numbers are insufficient to support vitamin D’s roles that go beyond calcium and bone health.
The need for joint and bone health nutrients in general increases with age. Aging also tends to reduce absorption of nutrients, forcing us to take higher amounts and better forms in order to assure adequate nutrition. The tendency of many seniors to cut back on meals, for reasons such as loss of taste or smell or interest in cooking, may also increase the need for supplementation of essential nutrients. The major joint and bone problems increase with age, and studies have shown the ability of relevant nutrients to maintain healthy bone and joint structures during these vulnerable times of life. Older customers that are more likely to take calcium supplements also tend to have diminished stomach acid available for digesting calcium from food and non-chelated (predigested) forms, so tend to do better with the predigested forms. These include calcium as citrate, malate, ascorbate, or bonded to specific amino acids; all are weak acidic sources that form a stable bond with the alkaline calcium and the resulting compound simulates the calcium complexes formed naturally during proper digestion.
While calcium and vitamin D are known for their role in bone and calcium metabolism, there are other nutrients necessary for bone health. These include silica, boron, magnesium, vitamins C and K, etc. protein. Comprehensive bone formulas include over a dozen nutrients, which are also available singly.
Children need to get sunshine, exercise, and a variety of calcium from food sources to ensure the body’s needs for bone health. If the child does not eat ample amounts milk and dark green leafy vegetables, they may need to complement the diet with appropriate dietary supplements.
Adults need to take care of their bodies and not impact the joints too much with hard exercises or excess weight. Support the joints nutritionally with glucosamine, vitamin C, a good multivitamin, and natural substances that modulate inflammation.
One should not neglect the long-term benefits of glucosamine to maintain joint distances that may otherwise erode, for example, while seeking fast-term temporary relief of aches and pains. By providing those products in both categories as well as overlapping combination products, we can supply a more holistic and sustainable nutritional joint support program.
Many of the Joint Structural Support Products contain varying amounts of glucosamine and/or chondroitin, as well as MSM, Hyaluronic Acid, and other well-known ingredients.
Thursday, January 27, 2011
I've had comments from readers wanting me to look at or debate specific studies that are perhaps contradictory to ones that I cited. I sometimes think that this not really productive; in the sense of 'why debate how much phytoestrogens are in foods?' when the questioner's intention seems be to help people avoid these benign/beneficial substances which are shown (at the highest levels of intake!) to prevent cancer (lowers risk of certain cancers by about 30%) and heart disease while blocking the truly harmful xenoestrogens (external sources like agricultural and industrial chemicals or plastics) from docking to cellular receptors.
And I don't really want to publish people's comments that include links that send people to other websites; especially if they are not authoritative and non-commercial. In most cases I provide my own references and will happily publish relevant comments that avoid such links; though I of course reserve the right to debate these comments with a follow up comment of my own if I disagree with the point(s) being made.
I also don't want to debate the merits of whatever "expert" someone wants to throw at me because we all know that there are plenty of voices of all levels of credibility on the Internet; many do not list references (or data-dump bogus (irrelevant or unsupportive) ones as soy critics often do), evidently preferring to hear themselves pontificate rather than to review topics from a real scientific curiosity that allows for minds to expand and change. Even the real experts often disagree, since that is the nature of the scientific method; though I have seen the rare term "proven" applied to research on soy's benefits for heart health.
I believe that YOU are smart enough to compare arguments and consider the merits of everyone's "facts" and opinions. As you see from the published comments from readers on my own blog, I do respect, read, and reply to your comments and even appreciate a "healthy" debate on topics that are also important to you. While no one is perfect (especially me), at least I aspire to know my limitations and try to do the right thing. Hopefully, you will carefully read my blog and consider me to be a trusted source providing "Honest Nutrition". Thanks for letting me share this page with you!
From an interview of me by Whole Foods Magazine, february 2011:
Our aging population will naturally turn to nutrients as a core defense of their heart and cardiovascular (CV) health. Research continues to pile up to support the benefits of various vitamins, minerals, amino acids, herbs, antioxidants, and other dietary supplements to optimize heart health. The trick is to communicate clear benefits associated with specific nutrients and formulas while treading on the right side of the label claims limits.
There are products that support various aspects of CV health. These include circulation, vascular health, heart energetics, fat metabolism, stress and cortisol control targeting abdominal fat, electrolyte metabolism, etc.
Additional heart support could be associated with blood sugar health, since diabetics disproportionately suffer and die from cardiovascular disease. Supporting nutrients to maintain healthy glucose metabolism include alpha lipoic acid, chromium, cinnamon, biotin, Gymnema sylvestre, corosolic acid, and others. The use of stevia as a sweetener can also be helpful in cutting carbohydrate intake; the whole herb, not the “Reb A” fraction commonly sold as a mass market sweetener, also has been shown to have supportive effects on pancreatic function, insulin sensitivity, and antioxidant benefits.
Many isolated nutrients have historically been used to support cardiovascular health, including amino acids (l-arginine, l-citrulline, l-carnitine), lecithin, vitamin E complex, CoQ10, B complex vitamins, methylators like TMG and SAMe, magnesium, antioxidants, plant sterols, sugar cane policosanol, and nattokinase. At the same time there are many botanicals for the same purpose such as hawthorn leaf and flower extract (not the berries, which are not shown to help the heart), and prickly ash bark. Whole foods or botanicals that support heart health include cayenne, garlic, ginger, cayenne, and whole fermented organic red yeast rice. And let’s not forget the benefits of fish oils and fiber, which do have FDA-approved qualified health claims.
Vitamin D also has a role in heart health, a benefit which the Institute of Medicine’s committee that released the new dietary recommendations did not endorse. By contrast, the FDA’s European counterpart EFSA (the European Food Safety Agency) has acknowledged a role for vitamin D in heart health: "The Panel concludes that a cause and effect relationship has been established between the dietary intake of vitamin D and contribution to the normal function of the immune system and healthy inflammatory response, and maintenance of normal muscle function." The heart, of course, is a muscle; the body’s control of inflammation, calcium metabolism, and muscle function are all intimately related to heart health.
Sunday, January 23, 2011
Monday, January 10, 2011
Keyboard shortcuts for commonly used symbols in science and math
Sign * (Description) * Hold down ALT key and type on number pad:
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½ (half) ALT 0189
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α (alpha) ALT 224
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Γ (gamma) ALT 226
Δ (delta) ALT 235
Ω (omega) ALT 234
≥ (greater than or equal to) ALT 242
≤ (less than or equal to) ALT 243
↑ (arrow up) ALT 24
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→ (right arrow) ALT 26
← (left arrow) ALT 27
☺ (smiley face) ALT 1
☼ (sun) ALT 15
♀ (female symbol) ALT 12
♂ (male symbol) ALT 11
IP-Certified Organics are produced without GMOs (genetically modified organisms) but are not tested for potential GMO contamination by pollen drift, etc. The IP stands for 'identity preserved"; in other words, there is an audit trail documenting the production and process inputs and a third party certifier overseeing and signing off on the paperwork. All crops and foods produced under this designation meet U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulations under its National Organic Program (USDA-NOP) that include allowable and non-allowable agricultural and food production inputs. Such inputs include irradiation (not allowed), agricultural chemicals (only natural source ones allowed), and GMOs (not allowed). Theer are also lists of allowed/not allowed food addititives and rules for making label claims for organics.
IP-non-GMO certification is similar, but this certification is only for processes that exclude introducing GMO substances or seeds. The difference is that there are other restrictions as to what is allowed to be used with organics that don't apply to non-GMO conventional foods. For example, agricultural chemicals, synthetic food additives, etc are allowed with non-GMO but not for certified organics.
Testing is another issue. Testing of such products is not widely done, and studies have shown that there is less GMO contamination of certified organics than conventional crops when neither is supposed to contain GMOs. Exports to Europe may require GMO testing to be done and results must be under a threshold (typically 0.5% maximum). But most certified organic and non-GMO certified ingredients are not tested for residual GMOs that could have gotten in by seed contamination, pollen drift, handling errors, etc. and this is usually not considered to be a significant problem that requires testing.