Thursday, February 04, 2021

Mayo Clinic researchers: vitamin B12 deficiency can cause premature graying of hair (PGH), which could be reversed thru supplementation. Low vitamin & mineral levels have also been associated with PGH, reversed by supplements: B5, PABA, D, copper, (iron). PMID: 30607038

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Fish Oils: Ethyl Ester versus Triglyceride forms

Low strength natural fish oils are in triglyceride (TG) form, as are most natural oils. To purify the oils by removing impurities and less desirable fatty acids and to concentrate the EPA and DHA fatty acid components, molecular distillation is used.  This process allows the oil to vaporize at low temperatures under pressure and is also known as vacuum distillation. The resulting vapor is collected and cooled, stratifying into distinct layers of fatty acids. This allows a purer esterified oil (called an ethyl ester form, or EE) with higher levels of EPA-DHA than crude fish oils and removal of triglycerides and cholesterol as well as other undesirable components. 

Some companies like to add triglycerides back in; this dilutes the fish oil concentrate by about 20% and the process also introduces mono- and di-glycerides, which don’t exist in natural fish oils to a significant degree but are thought responsible for higher absorption levels of this reconverted triglyceride form (rTG) oil over natural triglyceride and ethyl ester forms. If no triglycerides are added back, the body’s own store of triglycerides will be used to bond to the fatty acids after absorption, potentially lowering serum triglycerides more than an rTG oil. 

Absorption from our guts is always in the form of free fatty acids, so the oil’s original triglycerides are typically discarded during digestion and reattached later from body stores. This lowers the potential of the TG or rTG oils to lower triglycerides already in our bodies since they introduce additional triglycerides, which may be absorbed either into the body (adding more triglycerides into the liver) or into fiber or other materials that carry cholesterol out through the stool (potentially reducing the removal of cholesterol by competitive absorption). 

The prescription fish oils are in the ethyl ester form, not triglyceride form, because of the higher purity and higher strength of EE fish oils over TG or rTG forms resulting in better study outcomes on cardiovascular health measures. 

Krill oil is distinct because of its phospholipid matrix that greatly enhances omega-3 absorption more than the EE, TG, or rTG forms of fish oil.

Tuesday, June 09, 2020

Do bioflavonoids enhance Vitamin C absorption?

Vitamin C absorption from the gut is governed by sodium content for active transport. For passive absorption throughout the length of the intestine the vitamin does not use a similar co-factor.

The bioflavonoids come into play after vitamin C has been absorbed and is in circulation.  This vitamin has a relatively short half-life and depends on other antioxidants to act as electron donors to 'reduce' oxidized vitamin C (dehydroascorbate) back into the antioxidant form (ascorbate; ascorbic acid).  Various antioxidants, including bioflavonoids and polyphenols in fruits, are typically used to provide that extra benefit.  So the recycling and longevity of vitamin C after absorption depends greatly on the presence of other antioxidants; including not only rutin and bioflavonoids but also alpha lipoic acid, glutathione, and numerous other antioxidants.

So there is a benefit to using a base, often called vitamin C complex, in a vitamin C formula, but not so much in the initial absorption as in the vitamin's retention and recycling for re-use over time.  The variety of antioxidant-related nutrients in the human diet is thought responsible for why humans can retain vitamin C between meals when we cannot manufacture our own from blood sugar at will, as most mammals can.

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Aluminum in chlorella and other foods

Aluminum is one of the most abundant elements on earth and is correspondingly present in both food and water supplies. It is not a toxic heavy metal and so it is not routinely tested in foods or other raw materials, but the reported levels in chlorella are still low compared to common produce and other food staples; and chlorella’s serving size is also much smaller, which minimizes any potential risk even more.  
Aluminum in foods is not a cause for concern for toxicology experts because orally consumed aluminum is not considered to be vary bioavailable from the gut or persistent in the body. Less than 1% is typically absorbed from our G.I. tracts, and virtually all of that has been shown to be excreted in the urine or feces. (Injectable sources, such as vaccine adjuvants, present a separate issue as absorption is not constrained by an effective gut barrier.)
Some companies tout lower levels of aluminum in their chlorella products as a marketing distinction, but admit that the levels being compared are far lower than in most common foods that are considered very healthy, i.e. cruciferous vegetables; despite the overwhelming safety data showing no real risk from consuming these foods that are normally considered to be good for us.
Here is a toxicology evaluation of dietary aluminum safety:

Monday, July 15, 2019

Does zinc supplementation reduce absorption of calcium or magnesium?

In general, no.  While it’s true that zinc can reduce absorption of calcium it would have to be a high level to do so; studies showing such a relationship have primarily been on zinc sulfate supplements containing about 140 mg of elemental zinc.  This is far above the RDA/DV level of 15 mg. typically found in dietary supplements, or even the 30-50 mg. found in some immune or prostate formulas.  One typical study used 142 mg/day of zinc to achieve this; far higher than the amount in supplement formulas.  The study noted that the decrease in calcium absorption occurred when low calcium and high zinc intake was noted, but not with adequate calcium intake, and specifically tested lower doses of zinc along with low calcium intake and did not find a reduced absorption of calcium at commonly supplemented levels:

So the issue is limited to a very high zinc intake combined with a very low calcium intake, not the levels found in common supplements.  One will find zinc and calcium together in multiple vitamins or some mineral formulas, but at typically available levels they are not shown to cause the reduced absorption of calcium found in those studies cited above. 
The issue has also been studied for magnesium versus zinc intake.  Likewise, very high zinc intake interfered with low calcium intake (500 mg.) but less likely at higher levels of calcium intake.  Again, the levels of zinc in question (around 140 mg.) are not typically found in over-the-counter zinc supplements or multivitamins. 
 It is more convenient for people to supplement with combination formulations instead of taking several single ingredient supplements, typically increasing compliance with label instructions and dosing.  Knowing that it's okay to take minerals in combinations that are commonly found in the marketplace is reassuring when some pundits claim that it is inappropriate based on the unusual circumstances of low mineral intake combined with abnormally high zinc intake.  For physicians prescribing the high strength zinc products, this is something to consider, but not something for consumers of dietary supplement formulas to be concerned about.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Foods and Supplements for a Ketogenic Diet

Ketosis occurs when the body is largely starved of carbohydrates but has an alternate energy source. Ketogenic products encourage the burning of fat in place of sugar/carbohydrates as a caloric source. The key is to avoid rises in blood sugar and insulin, while providing alternate fuels.

There are numerous keto-friendly products; these are considered to be those that contain fewer than 10 calories per serving of net carbohydrates (minus fiber). Fiber doesn’t raise blood sugar and insulin response, so is neutral and not counted when looking at labels. Most dietary supplements fall into the category of being ketogenic neutral; that is, they neither contain significant carbohydrate sources nor directly contribute ketogenic stimulating substances like fat. The main ketogenic products are fats: MCT and coconut oils (both contain MCTs) are the most important ones. Some take beta-hydroxybutyric acid, a ketone, directly.

Ketogenic diets tend to decrease electrolytes and increase the need for water. This increases the need for magnesium, potassium, and even sodium. If blood sugar drops too low, the kidneys can create blood sugar by converting the proteins (i.e. the amino acid glutamine) into glucose (gluconeogenesis), so high protein diets are also discouraged. This leaves non-starchy vegetables and fats as the most desirable parts of the diet, along with some protein and fiber. Nuts and seeds are often okay, but some are more starchy; check the labels. Dairy is largely out due to its lactose content, but non-dairy foods and beverages may be okay if also low carb. Fish oil supplements are desirable. Green foods are important; supplements like chlorella or spirulina can be very useful, as can wheatgrass or barley grass.

Other supplements used on a ketogenic regime include green tea and EGCg capsules, L-glutamine if exercising (it can convert to sugar, so use sparingly), 7-keto DHEA, collagen or gelatin or bone broth. Anti-inflammatory substances may also be helpful: turmeric and curcumin, ginger, etc.

Unless eating natural or fortified sources of vitamin D, or getting adequate sun exposure, supplementation of this vitamin is recommended. A multiple vitamin is the best source, assuming it has enough for your needs,  as it also supplies other nutrients needed for metabolism of fats and energy production. Calcium supplementation may be needed unless consuming lots of green vegetables. Look for digestive enzymes that supply lipase if consuming lots of fat (not needed for MCT oil). Supplements containing ox bile (also in some digestive enzyme formulas) may be needed if inadequate gall bladder function is suspected or known. Don’t forget the electrolytes!

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Stearic acid and Magnesium Stearate update

How much stearic acid is in chocolate? 

We were looking at a chocolate bar yesterday. Dark chocolate is supposed to be a health food. 

As we happened to be nutritionists, the topic of the chocolate bar's stearic acid content came up, which is a controversial fatty acid. So I did a little calculating...

The bar in question is a 72% Dark Chocolate from Belgium, with the fat coming almost exclusively from cocoa butter (except a tiny bit of lecithin; but typically under half a percent is used in chocolate manufacturing, according to Chocolate University Online). The bar weighs 1.65 oz (47 grams), contains 280 calories, and is labeled as being one serving.  

The product label says that the bar supplies 19 grams of fat, including 12 grams of saturated fat. Since about one-third of cocoa butter’s fat - and over half of its saturated fat - is known to be stearic acid, a one-bar serving of this chocolate conservatively can be assumed to contain at least 6 grams of stearic acid, which is equivalent to 6,000 milligrams (mg.). 

How does that compare to the amount of stearates commonly found in tablets and capsules?

That amount in the single small chocolate bar is equivalent to more than 1,000 tablets or capsules worth of stearate content, assuming the highest likely amount of stearic acid or magnesium stearate was used in those pills. Five milligrams is the highest I've seen on supplement Master Formulas, but many products use less or none. (Assuming 5 mg. per pill x 1,000 pills = 5,000 mg. of stearates per bottle).

So if someone had a jumbo, family-sized bottle of a thousand pills, each containing a few milligrams of stearic acid or magnesium stearate that's primarily stearic acid, that whole bottle would contain less stearic acid than a single serving 47 gram dark chocolate bar. 

Doesn't that put stearic acid consumption into perspective? Each pill contains less than 1% of what you'd get in a serving of chocolate. 

How much stearic acid is found in other common foods?

Butter contains about 12% stearic acid, by weight, as do the average beef, pork, or lamb product. Healthy olive and coconut oils contain between 2-3% stearic acid. Salmon oil naturally contains about 4% stearic acid. 

More fun facts:
  • Milligrams (mg.) are thousands of a gram; micrograms (mcg.) are millionths of a gram.
  • Stearic acid tends to be converted into oleic acid in the liver.
  • Stearic acid is abundant in the food supply as a natural component of the fat in those foods; milk and meat fats are the primary sources. 

How much magnesium is in magnesium stearate?

The molecular weight of stearic acid (Octadecanoic acid) is 284.484 grams/mol. There are 2 stearic acid molecules in one molecule of magnesium stearate, which has a molecular weight of 591.257 grams/molThe molecular weight of magnesium is about 24.305 grams/mol. So the amount of magnesium in a 5 mg portion of magnesium stearate is about 200 micrograms (not milligrams); about half of one one-thousandth (half of 1/1,000 or 0.0005 or 0.050%) of the 400 milligram RDA. That's also 1/20th of a percent of the RDA. 

So the amount of magesium in a pill containing magnesium stearate is negligible; it would be insignificant unless another magnesium source is added. Magnesium stearate is a form of chelated magnesium that contains only about 4% elemental magnesium by weight and about 96% stearic acid.

  • Kelly FD, Sinclair AJ, Mann NJ, Turner AH, Abedin L, Li D. A stearic acid-rich diet improves thrombogenic and atherogenic risk factor profiles in healthy males. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2001 Feb;55(2):88-96. PubMed PMID: 11305631.