Thursday, November 30, 2006

Vegetarian Dietary Supplements

Vegetarian Dietary Supplements By Neil E. Levin, CCN, DANLA 

Most dietary supplement manufacturers use the term “vegetarian” to include “vegan” and one even recently began adding the word “vegan” to their product labels to assure users that they are offering products without any animal-derived ingredients. 

However, some products are always animal-derived. These include: Fish Oil, Gelatin, Chondroitin sulfate, Vitamin D3, Hydroxyapatite calcium, collagen, Chitosan fiber, Celadrin oils, Pancreatin, Pepsin, Trypsin, Chymotrypsin, ImmunoLin® immunoglobulin complex, Bovine or Shark Cartilage, Sea Cucumber, Sea Mussel, Liver products that contain actual liver tissue, IGF-1 deer velvet and glandular substances. Other products are sourced from milk or dairy products: Whey proteins, Casein, Colostrum, and MicroLactin™. 

Probiotics are typically made by growing bacterial cultures on dairy products. Some strains are weaned off of the dairy and are harvested with only traces of dairy protein (casein) remaining. The growers will not certify these probiotics as non-dairy, dairy free or vegetarian, but tell us that most manufacturers do label their probiotics with these claims. 

 Yet another class of products is considered non-vegan because of the honeybee source: Bee Pollen (collected by, but not made by, bees), Honey, and Royal Jelly. This is an interesting distinction because bees also are essential for pollination and increasing the yields of many fruits, vegetables and nuts eaten by vegans. 

 Some dietary supplements may come from either animal or vegetarian sources. One example is Glucosamine, a structural component of the joints normally extracted from clam shells. While most glucosamine products are from shellfish, there is a vegetarian version that can be combined with MSM to provide the sulfur needed for the body to turn glucosamine hydrochloride into glucosamine sulfate. This vegetarian form is obtained by fermentation. Still, the vast majority of glucosamine supplements on the market use the shellfish-derived form, including the supplement called NAG (N-acetyl glucosamine) that is used for GI health and as an “essential sugar”. 

HA (Hyaluronic acid), used to aid the moisture-holding, cushioning ability of the joints, is often extracted from poultry. There is a vegetarian form, produced by fermentation. 

The digestive enzymes amylase, lipase and protease are found in the animal product called Pancreatin. But there are also plant-derived enzymes. These plant enzymes include amylase, lipase and protease, but they work in a much wider pH range over a longer period of time than Pancreatin enzymes, which work only in the alkaline pH of the intestine. Beginning digestion of fats and carbohydrates in the stomach can improve even good digestion. 

Look for vegetable-derived excipients such as magnesium stearate, stearic acid, rice flour, maltodextrin, etc. The stearates can also be sourced from beef fat, so it pays to check! 

Gelatin has long been the substance that capsules are made from. Originally, all capsules were gelatin caps. Two-piece capsules are normally derived from beef and pork gelatin, whereas the gelatin in softgel capsules is normally exclusively derived from beef gelatin. More recently, Vcaps have become a preferred form. In the past ten years or so there have also been Vcaps® as a vegetarian alternative, made from vegetable cellulose. A newer version, called NP Caps or Vcaps®, is made from non-GMO corn polysaccharides. Some considerations in the choice of which type of capsule to use revolve around the technical differences in filling and storing gelatin versus Vcaps. These differences include different moisture barrier characteristics, different transparency of the capsule, different speeds at which these capsules can be filled on our production line, whether only vegetarian materials are used in the formula, etc. There is a way to fill two-piece vegetarian capsules with liquids, but the resulting product has an air bubble in the capsule and is typically a much lower dose and much more expensive than softgels made from gelatin. So this form has not been fast to catch on. 

One softgel that is available in a vegetarian capsule is Vegetarian E-400. But this form is not yet widely used for other supplements. Most vitamin E softgel caps are primarily made from beef gelatin. There is often hidden gelatin (often from fish) in beta-carotene, lutein, and other oil-based ingredients. Companies should scrupulously ensure that they use only non-gelatin bases for ingredients in their vegetarian/vegan products. It is unknown how aware vegetarian shoppers are of this hidden, tricky issue. Often, these problems apply to carotene or lutein in multiple vitamin formulas, which could get mislabeled as “vegetarian” if a manufacturer does not take the care to pay attention to these important ingredient details. 

Other common names for animal-derived ingredients include Porcine (from pork/pigs), Bovine (beef/cows), and Ovine (lamb/sheep). Consumers can contact the vitamin companies directly to ask about their vegetarian products. Knowledgeable health food store personnel, especially certified nutritionists or vitamin specialists familiar with their inventory, can be very helpful. Often an employee at a store who is a vegetarian will be familiar with the products from that perspective. And please be aware that the availability of vegetarian options is always increasing! 

In many cases, there is no functional difference between differently sourced ingredients; for example, glucosamine or HA. It is only when the actual form of the active constituent is physically/chemically different that a difference in the actions and efficacy of a substance is likely. There may be some differences in efficacy between plant and animal sourced ingredients, as we have seen with plant enzymes having a wider range of action than the same types of animal enzymes. 

Fish oil is far more effective than flax oil in terms of providing the maximum EPA and DHA per serving. Flax oil contains ALA, which is poorly converted into EPA and DHA (5-10% and 2-5%, respectively). 

One good example is melatonin, usually sold as a synthesized ‘nature-identical’ molecule. It can also be extracted from the pineal gland, but considerations of Mad Cow Disease and animal ingredient issues have pretty much sunk that source, which was the original form available. While glandulars may have other, subtle effects on the body, the actual melatonin produced either way is the exact same molecule with identical actions. 

Phosphatidyl Serine (PS) is normally produced from lecithin, with additional sources more rarely available (bovine, egg). Most of the research is on the soy-derived source, so its efficacy should not be in question. In the human body PS is synthesized from phosphatidylcholine; a similar process is used commercially to produce PS. 

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Honey Quality and Control of Pests in Beehives

Honey Quality and Control of Pests in Beehives 11/22/06 By Neil E. Levin, CCN, DANLA For a decade our American beekeepers have suffered from a plague of mites, which are tiny bugs that infest beehives. They have helplessly watched as a certain percentage of their hives die off every year (sometimes as many as 80%), with the main alternative being to use long-lasting chemicals that can affect the quality of their honey. Neither one is a completely satisfactory option for a nature-loving beekeeper. Mites are believed to have originated in South Africa prior to 1977. Loss of hives and weak hives do affect pollination rates, which in turn affect the size of harvests. For example, during one recent year in one German region, the size of the cherry harvest declined by nearly two-thirds and the apple harvest declined by 25% as a result of mite infestations destroying beehives, according to Dr. Josef Heine, a veterinarian and bee specialist working for the Animal Health division of Bayer HealthCare. Common chemicals used to control mites are fluvalinate (Apistan®), coumaphos (Bayer’s CheckMite™), and formic acid. These are often applied by hanging strips in the hives that release fumes for several weeks. Even most Integrated Pest Management techniques include the use of chemicals; warning that if a beekeeper doesn’t use any chemicals, he or she will probably lose some hives: One mite-control technique is to use a food-grade mineral oil with an added plant oil fraction called thymol (from thyme leaves), dispensing them by means of a propane fogger to create a mist. Here is a link to more information on this method: Some beekeepers are now treating beehives with acetic acid, which is basically like a concentrated form of vinegar. This natural chemical is vaporized by a specialized piece of equipment that blows the vapor into each hive entrance for only 30 seconds once a week for three weeks in a row. That’s all it takes. A friend of mine (my former beekeeping partner some 25 years ago) reports 100% survival of his over-wintered hives for the first time in ten years simply by utilizing this method! He is thrilled with once again having mite-free bee colonies without resorting to the use of chemical agents. If you are a beekeeper and want to get more information about this new process, please contact me with a comment to this posting. This report is intended to increase awareness of the issues and options involved for controlling mites in beehives. Please note that I cannot specifically endorse any of these techniques or companies, and that honey used in many food products undergoes screening by Quality Control specialists utilizing modern equipment and techniques to avoid adulterants.

Friday, November 10, 2006

More evidence of vitamin E safety!

More evidence of vitamin E safety! According to a new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition1, male smokers in a study population who had the highest blood levels of vitamin E suffered significantly fewer deaths than comparable male smokers who had lower blood levels of this essential vitamin. Researchers from the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health teamed up with their counterparts in Finland to review the relationship of blood levels of vitamin E (alpha tocopherol) and all-cause mortality in male smokers age 50-69 in the Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta-Carotene Cancer Prevention (ATBC) Study. The study included 29,092 men, with follow-ups continuing over a period of up to 19 years. For those in the groups with the highest blood levels of alpha-tocopherol, there was an 18% lower risk of deaths from all causes. Included in this figure are results relating to specific causes of death, including a 21% reduction in deaths from cancer, a 19% reduction in deaths from cardiovascular disease and a whopping 30% reduction in deaths from all other causes. The report reached this conclusion: “Higher circulating concentrations of alpha-tocopherol within the normal range are associated with significantly lower total and cause-specific mortality in older male smokers.” A non-reproduced meta-analysis6 warning of the largely theoretical dangers of taking vitamin E supplements has generated a lot of concern and a large decline in vitamin E usage, though this flies in the face of other, more rigorous studies showing that higher levels of serum vitamin E are associated with lower mortality numbers.1, 3-4, 7 These largely unsubstantiated warnings may be doing a disservice to figures showing that “93% of men and 96% of women in the United States do not consume the recommended daily amount of dietary vitamin E”.2, 5 In another study, ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) mortality was 62% lower among long-term users of vitamin E than among nonusers.8 Also, in a study of cancer patients done for the US Dept. of Health and Human Services, “Subgroup analysis did identify a statistically significant 9% reduction in all cause mortality” and “13% reduction in all-cancer mortality associated with supplemental vitamin E in combination with other micro-nutrients.”9 REFERENCES: Margaret E Wright, Karla A Lawson, Stephanie J Weinstein, Pirjo Pietinen, Philip R Taylor, Jarmo Virtamo and Demetrius Albanes. Higher baseline serum concentrations of vitamin E are associated with lower total and cause-specific mortality in the Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta-Carotene Cancer Prevention Study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 84, No. 5, 1200-1207, November 2006. (Researchers were from the Nutritional Epidemiology and the Genetic Epidemiology Branch, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, and the Cancer Prevention Fellowship Program, Division of Cancer Prevention, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, and the Department of Health Promotion and Chronic Disease Prevention, National Public Health Institute, Helsinki, Finland) Maras JE, Bermudez OI, Qiao N, Bakun PJ, Boody-Alter EL, Tucker KL. Intake of alpha-tocopherol is limited among US adults. J Am Diet Assoc2004; 104 :567 –75. Traber MG. How much vitamin E? ... Just enough! Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Nov;84(5):959-960. PMID: 17093143 Wright ME, Lawson KA, Weinstein SJ, et al. Higher baseline serum concentrations of vitamin E are associated with lower total and cause-specific mortality in the Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta-Carotene Cancer Prevention Study. Am J Clin Nutr2006; 84 :1200–7. Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine. Dietary reference intakes for vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, and carotenoids. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2000. Edgar R. Miller, III, MD, PhD; et al. High-dose vitamin E supplementation may increase all-cause mortality, a dose response meta-analysis of randomized trials. Annals of Internal Medicine: Online: Nov. 10, 2004: Print: 4 January 2005 Volume 142 Issue 1 John N Hathcock, et al. REVIEW ARTICLE: Vitamins E and C are safe across a broad range of intakes. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 81, No. 4, 736-745, April 2005. Vitamin E intake and risk of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Ann Neurol. 2005 Jan;57(1):104-10. PMID: 15529299 Shekelle P, et al. Effect of the supplemental use of antioxidants vitamin C, vitamin E, and coenzyme Q10 for the prevention and treatment of cancer. Evid Rep Technol Assess (Summ). 2003 Oct;(75):1-3. Review. PMID: 15523748