Zinc deficiency may alter how the immune system responds to inflammation

Raw Oysters for zinc

A new study has shown that a zinc deficiency contributes to chronic inflammation by causing improper immune cell activation and dysregulation of a protein that affects inflammation in the cell.

Read more about this research below.

Zinc is an essential mineral in human health required as a cofactor in numerous biological processes including DNA and protein synthesis, cell division, normal growth and development, neurological function and immunity, and wound healing. It is also required for normal taste perception and smell.

Zinc is naturally available in a wide variety of foods with higher amounts found in protein-rich foods including meat, poultry and seafood. Regular intake is necessary to maintain a steady state because it is not stored. Zinc deficiency most often occurs when intake is inadequate or poorly absorbed, when there are increased losses of zinc from the body, or when the requirement for zinc increases. Evidence from NHANES III data show that zinc intakes among older adults might be marginal, increasing the risk of a zinc deficiency.

Zinc deficiency is thought to contribute to the development of chronic diseases that involve inflammation and often show up in older adults who have a higher risk for zinc deficiency. In a new study published in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research researchers examined how the immune system responds to zinc deficiency resulting in mechanisms that promote inflammation. Using in vitro cell culture and the aging mouse model, researchers found that zinc deficiency can induce an increase in the inflammatory response in cells by causing improper immune cell activation and dysregulation of cytokine IL-6, a protein that affects inflammation in the cell. When comparing zinc levels in both young and older living mice, the older mice with low zinc levels had a corresponding increase in chronic inflammation and decreased IL-6 methylation, an epigenetic mechanism that is used by cells to control gene expression.

The results of this study provide evidence of a potential link between zinc deficiency and increased risk of chronic inflammation, especially in aging adults.  

Here are the top 10 dietary sources of zinc:

  • Oysters
  • Beef & Lamb (Grass fed)
  • Wheat Germ
  • Spinach
  • Pumpkin and squash seeds
  • Cashews
  • Coco & Dark Chocolate (Not milk chocolate)
  • Pork & Chicken (Pasture raised)
  • Mushrooms.

If you don’t eat these foods two to three times a day, then time to look a high quality supplement which contains zinc.

Wong CP, Rinaldi NA, Ho E. Zinc deficiency enhanced inflammatory response by increasing immune cell activation and inducing IL6 promoter demethylation. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2015 Feb 5. doi: 10.1002/mnfr.201400761. [Epub ahead of print]

FDA Finds Problems at 62% of Supplement Manufactures

Consumer Labs today reported that the FDA has found 62% of the 483 dietary supplement manufacturing facilities failed their inspections in 2014.  These were for noncompliance with the current Good Manufacturing practices (cGMP) which they are required to follow. Sadly they only inspected a small number of the total number of manufactures.

The FDA reported an average of 6 infractions per facility. The most common infractions were:

  • Not conducting at least one appropriate test or examination to verify the identity of a dietary ingredients and/or
  • Not establishing product specifications for the identity, purity, strength, and/or composition of the finished dietary supplement.

The list of results by manufactures inspected can be found on the ConsumerLabs.com website. This site requires a member sign in.  I am a member and reviewed the list and there are some big names that received letters. There are challenges though, with seeing if your favorite company was inspected and how they did for several reasons:

  • Most retailers and distributors don’t manufacture their own products. They outsource the manufacturing to contract manufactures who actually produce the product for a number of different companies.  So you buy Brand X, but Brand X doesn’t have a manufacturing facility because they contract with Company Z to do the manufacturing. The inspection would be of Company Z, not the brand you buy.
  • There are a very few manufactures of dietary supplements, such as the one I use and recommend, who are registered with the FDA as pharmaceutical drug manufactures and must adhere to much more stringent pharmaceutical Good Manufacturing Practices. So this company would fall into a different category of FDA inspections.
  • Only a small percentage of the total number of manufacturing facilities were inspected. So if your favorite company isn’t listed it isn’t because they passed or failed, but just weren’t inspected this year.

So what do you do?

  • Figure than when you look at the vitamin aisle at the health food store that over half the bottles on the shelf came from manufactures who failed their inspection.
  • Look to 3rd parties for validation of your brand. Some good sources are:
    • ConsumerLabs.com. This is a membership site but they routinely examine and test a number of different products each month.
    • NSF.org  Is the public health and safety organization. NSF certifies facilites  and also lists products they’ve approved Safe for Sport – they they insure don’t have any unlisted contaminants.
    • PDR.net – This is the Physicans Desk Reference for pharmaceutical drugs.  There are a few high quality supplement brands who are listed in this reference.  If it is listed in the PDR, your doctor knows it is safe and high quality.
    • Comparative guide to Nutritional Supplements – This publication has ranked over 1,600 different products on a 0-5 scale. The initial rating is based on the label, so no testing. But for those who were rated a 5, then they are invited to have 3rd party labs verify their products and they must have their manufacturing facilities tested as well.

The brand I use has passed all the above tests and has been the #1 ranked product in the Comparative Guide to Nutritional Supplements in all 5 editions.  Ask me and I’ll tell you who they are.




Doctors to stop screening for vitamin D levels

If you’ve been to the doctor in the last years your blood test most likely included a screen for Vitamin D levels. If you’re levels were low you probably were advised to supplement vitamin D to get your levels up.  Well recently MedPage Today, a daily newsletter to the medical community ran a headline article stating that routing vitamin D screening was unsupported except in high risk groups, which were post menopausal women. (at risk for osteoporosis)

Unless you’ve been on a deserted island (without WiFi) for the past decade you know there there has been hundreds of research papers published linking increased vitamin D levels to helping to prevent, or cure, everything from the common cold to cancer – and yes osteoporosis in post menopausal women.

So why would the medical community recommend doctors stop screening for vitamin D levels? It is probably a case of follow the money. The FDA is heavily supported and funded by the pharmaceutical industry. Many of the FDA executives are retired pharmaceutical executives.  Pharmaceutical companies also help support medical schools and give MDs great incentives for prescribing their drugs.  So where is the link? If everyone had adequate levels of vitamin D from a very early age through life there would be far fewer cases of many degenerative diseases including cancer.  What that means to the pharmaceutical industry is that far fewer people would be needing their very expensive and very profitable drugs.

Yes there is a cost to doing the tests, but the cost of dozens of blood tests is far less expensive than one months worth of chemo treatment. Even look at the common cold and flu. What would the savings in lost man hours due to sick days from the cold and flu? Probably billions of dollars per year. Vitamin D supplements are also very inexpensive. So with the vast amount of research on the benefits of maintaining vitamin D levels above 50 ng/ml that potentially will cost the pharmaceutical and medical industry billions.

If you live in North America you will need to supplement with vitamin D as the sun isn’t strong enough for much of the year to stimulate natural production of vitamin D.

So in the name of maintaining stock prices, which needs profits, the pharmaceutical industry would rather have us ill and using their products vs. healthy.

Before you scream the evils of capitalism and profits, look at your retirement portfolio and your 401K. I’m sure you have many pharmaceutical stocks in your portfolio.  Do you want your portfolio to go up or down? Up of course, so you want the pharma companies to do all they can to increase sales, which this is an example of.  So do get your vitamin D tested, and invest in companies other than pharmaceutical companies.

The Importance of Optimal Nutrition


NOTE: The following address was delivered by Dr. Wentz at the 2014 USANA Health Sciences International Convention 

Dr. Myron Wentz, internationally recognized microbiologist, immunologist, and pioneer in the development of human cell culture technology and infectious disease diagnoses, holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from North Central College in Naperville, Illinois, a master’s degree in microbiology from the University of North Dakota, and a Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.


As many of you know, the name USANA is a combination of the Greek and Latin word roots that means “true health.” When USANA was created more than 20 years ago, we wanted a name that would express the critical importance of nutrition for developing and maintaining a healthy body and mind. I believe then, as I do today, that optimal nutrition is by far the most important thing you can do to achieve long term good health. That’s why I want to revisit the subject of the importance of optimal nutrition, especially the critical need for supplementation in our modern society.

My early mentor and later colleague, Dr. Linus Pauling said, “You can trace every sickness, every disease, and every ailment to a mineral deficiency.” And that goes for vitamins and most other nutrients as well. In fact, the World Health Organization considers under nutrition to be the single greatest threat to our world’s public health. Deficiencies of the essential micronutrients have serious health effects for all age groups such as the 14 million children in developing countries suffering a loss of vision due to a deficiency of vitamin A. 500- to 600,000 of those children go blind every year. And half of them will die within a year of losing their sight.

We need nutritional supplementation more today than ever before. Since the start of the industrial revolution two centuries ago, we have made our environment, the world we live in, unfriendly to most forms of life. The air we breathe, the water we drink, and the soils we use to produce foods all have greater amounts of pesticides, heavy metals, and toxic synthetics than ever before. However, the correct nutrients in the proper amounts can protect you from today’s toxic environment .

The problem is almost all of our nutrition comes from one place: Food; our three square meals a day. Unfortunately today’s food is not what it used to be. There are two major problems. First, what’s not in it. And second, what is in it. What do I mean by that?

Well, to begin with, most of our foods are provided to us by a food industry that puts profits ahead of the customer. The problems begin on the farm where intensive industrial farming has been implemented to maximize output such as monoculture and the overuse of artificial fertilizers which supply only a few of the elements that support life. In this practice, there’s far too little concern for the health of the soil and the true nutritional content of the vegetables, fruits, or meat products.

All around the world our soils have been depleted of nutrients that were built up over hundreds of thousands of years. The nutrition rich topsoil needed to grow our food is disappearing at an alarming rate. Agriculture authorities at the United Nations estimate that we are exhausting the nutritional elements of the topsoil at rates up to 100 times faster than it can regenerate.

In a misguided attempt to compensate for this wholesale abuse of the soil, billions of pounds of fertilizer are dumped on crop lands every year. But they generally replace only three nutrients: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. We need many other elements and compounds about 40 of them to enable ourselves to function properly. We need them in our diet. They cannot be made by the body.

When foods are deficient in important nutrients our bodies end up substituting them with similar, but less functional or even harmful non-life elements, and incorporate them in ourselves and tissues in place of the nutrients they need.

For example, radioactive strontium will be taken up by the body to make up for a calcium deficiency. Likewise, when we’re deficient in healthy fats, the cells will substitute them with unhealthy trans fats. And an even greater problem than nutrient depletion from the soil is the amount of nutrition lost from food products during harvesting, transportation, storage, and processing. Some crops are harvested before maturity in an attempt to have supermarket produce achieve a longer shelf life. Those fruits and vegetables may last longer, and look better, but they haven’t been allowed to develop their full nutritional value.

The next step, getting food from the farms to the people contributes further to the loss of nutrition. Most of us now live in large cities, far from the farm. That means fresh food must travel across the country and in many cases, around the world. Of course, when food spends that kind of time in transportation and storage, it also means the additional loss of nutrients.

Then, there is food processing. It makes the job of the merchandiser much easier, but comes at the expense of the consumer. Processed foods may be easier to ship and have a longer shelf life, but so many nutrients are left behind in the factory. So is most of the taste.

A recent study from Canada compared a range of staple foods including potatoes, tomatoes, bananas, apples, onions, broccoli and more, finding nutrient losses in all of it. Over the past 50 years for example, the average potato has lost 100 percent of its vitamin A, 57 percent of vitamin C and iron, 50 percent of riboflavin or vitamin B2, and 28 percent of calcium and 18 percent of thiamine or vitamin B1.

Now, let’s bring that food from the store to the kitchen and begin to prepare a meal. Cooking results in further loss of nutrients with reductions of 25 percent or more. It is a wonder that any nutritional value is still left in our food when it finally lands on our plate. What I’ve told you thus far is only a quick overview of what’s not in our diets; what used to be there, and should still be there today.

But there is a second and perhaps worse problem: Chemicals and toxins in the foods we eat every day. That’s right. One aspect of our daily lives that we hope would protect us and keep us healthy turns out to be another hazard. Our bodies are forced to cope with increasing amounts of toxic chemicals; a misfortunate result of today’s industrial farming procedures.

Take pesticides. Billions of pounds 25 billion dollars’ worth annually are dumped on our food crops. Over the past two decades we’ve been told that the adoption of genetically engineered crops has resulted in the decreased use of herbicides and in insecticides. However, more recent reports indicate that’s not true. In fact, the rise in genetically modified food crops is leading to greater applications of both herbicides and insecticides, not less.

Unfortunately, that is only the beginning of our exposure to toxins. All around you, in the clothes you wear, in the couch you sit on inside your home, and even in the car you drive, every year the toxic sources increase. But the threat of everyday toxic chemical exposure in your home, on the job, and sometimes at the place you go on vacation is only part of the story.

More than a decade ago, an environmental survey group tested the blood of some Americans. What was found? A total of 287 toxic chemicals in those blood specimens with individual test subjects averaging 200 toxic chemicals each. Of the toxics found, 28 of them were waste products, waste byproducts such as dioxins and furans from pesticides. In addition, they found 47 toxics from consumer products such as Teflon and flame retardants. Most serious was the detection of industrial chemicals and pesticides that were banned more than 30 years ago. Many of them directly associated with cancer, birth defects and infertility.

But these test subjects didn’t get those toxic substances by consuming the food, air, or water around them. They couldn’t have because they were all newborn babies. Precious brand new in this world for only hours. The blood tested was taken from their umbilical cords. The toxins came from the nourishment received from their mothers, the only food those babies had ever known. Here perhaps more dramatically than in any other stage of life is where the difference between how we used to live and what we face today is best demonstrated.

As proven by the blood specimens, we see that a mother’s body is not capable of protecting its baby from the toxic chemicals it is exposed to today. We no longer live in a world where a healthy diet is all you need to ensure good health. As Dr. Weaver so eloquently described, we are surrounded by toxic substances psychological as well as physical and stress. Today, more than ever, our bodies need more assistance, more protection, and more nourishment even before birth.

From the changes in the earth’s soils, to how our foods are obtained, and through the characteristics of living in a modern society, we see the results of humankind’s power to degrade the environment he lives in. Often it seems like it’s a problem of society itself; too large for us to change.

However, the blame for inadequate nutrition cannot be placed solely on others. In many cases, poor nutrition is largely a matter of bad lifestyle choices. We know what foods are most nutritious, but because we’re too busy or don’t have enough time, we opt for convenience instead.

When diet researchers asked almost 2,000 adults what the most important consideration was in choosing lunch, convenience and taste ranked well above health. In fact, health ended up dead last. Convenience was 34 percent, taste was 28 percent, cost, 21 percent. Health, 17 percent. Ultimately the most important factor in living a healthy lifestyle is, of course, you.

The USANA supplements can provide you with the most effective solution to give yourselves all and I mean all of life’s essential micronutrients. But it is only when you make them part of your everyday living routine that the power of those nutritionals is realized. Doing that is up to you. All of you can be thankful that you’ve taken an important first step by becoming a member of the USANA family.

From USANA’s very first days, I knew it would be an uphill climb to stand up against large, well-funded groups, organizations only interested in simply maintaining the status quo. That is why we all join together today, ignited toward a greater good. Because after two decades USANA continues to show the world that the quality of our lives doesn’t have to be dictated by the food industry, by industrial farming, by the pharmaceutical industry, by your own government or those in the biomedical community who insist that supplementation is of little or no value.

To this day, I still remember when the USANA Essentials were introduced. The relentless criticism saying that supplements result in nothing more than expensive urine or that higher than recommended daily allowances of some nutrients like antioxidants failed to improve health and may contribute to illness. Those critics and doubters, they are still around and they are still wrong.

Time and again, time and again, we hear the objection that there are no trustworthy scientific studies that show supplementation providing real health benefits. USANA family, that is not true. There are in fact thousands and thousands of credible studies that prove the benefits of micro nutrition. Every year thousands of medical journal articles are published on the various benefits from vitamins and minerals. In just one year, 500 to 600 articles were written on vitamin E alone. And about that same number focused on vitamin C. You can read benefit after benefit that comes from the world of micronutrients.

One particularly interesting report compared a group of hospital patients, those who did follow a regimen of daily supplement consumption, and those who did not. As I’ve said many times before, daily supplement support a complete and varied diet to promote long term good health. It is when your body needs that supplement, when your body needs help that supplements are of their greatest value.

Now, as members of the USANA family, you know that you receive the highest quality, most effective, nutritional products available anywhere.

With that knowledge, so imagine how much better those results would’ve been if all those patients had been using USANA nutritionals.

So here we are together, facing a challenging living situation. Depleted soils, nutrients removed during food processing, exposure to hundreds of toxics from synthetic products, nutrient depletion by pharmaceutical drugs and much, much more. Now we have a clear picture of why it is so important to give people the opportunity, the opportunity to choose optimal nutritional supplementation. USANA was created to give this opportunity to everyone.

Our purpose has never wavered. Everything we do at USANA helps you love life and live it.

We design, develop, and manufacture the highest quality nutritional supplements that contain the right ingredients, supplying all and again I mean all of life’s essential nutrients in the correct forms that provide maximum viability, absorption by the gut, and in the appropriate amounts to ensure proper balance, since an excess of one nutrient can create a deficiency in another. You can be proud of your USANA nutritionals.

But today’s USANA essentials and optimizers are not the same products that were introduced in 1992. Every year new discoveries in biomedical science are made. Science discovers new ways to look at things and we strive to find better ways in providing the best nutrition possible. What has not changed is our basic knowledge of what makes for a healthy cell. It is the same message USANA has always had: Quality, efficacy, and completeness are essential. And product choice allows you to design a nutritional program that matches your lifestyle.

Because the environment has been poisoned and degraded in so many ways, you must supplement your diet with those difficult to obtain nutritional elements; to replace what’s been eliminated from foods during processing, transportation and storage; and to provide proper adequate anti-oxidant protection from cellular oxidative damage.

Again, let me say, the most important factor in living a healthy lifestyle is you.

What Determines a Supplements Bioavailibility

I was asked the other day to explain what determines Bio-availibility in a multivitamin. First though what is bioavailibility?  Bioavailibility is simply how easily and completely your body absorbs the vitamins and minerals in supplements, or in foods. Something would have excellent bioavailibility if 100% of what you ate ended up in your blood stream. It would have 0% if nothing ended up in your blood stream. Of course few are 100% or 0%, but in-between. Below is a discussion of several different factors which affect bioavailibility

Forms of minerals

Minerals initially come from the earth. So in theory you could eat dirt and get all the minerals you need. But unfortunatly the minerals in dirt are in a from that we can’t readily absorb (low bioavailability).

Plants though can pick up those minerals in the soil and bind them into organic compounds in their fruits, leaves, seeds, etc. this is called chelation. Then when we eat that fruit or vegetable we also bring in those  chelated minerals, and since they are part of organic compounds that our bodies are looking for, they are readily absorbed.

If you’re looking at your supplements label how do you tell which it has? Simple is to look at the name. For example if it ends in “ide” like magnesium chloride or calcium chloride, then it is a mineral salt as found in dirt. One exception is Iodine – you’ll often see that as potassium iodide.

What you want to look for are minerals in a supplement which are “Chelated” minerals . These will often end in the “ate” such as chromium picolinate, calcium citrate, calcium carbonate, zinc citrate, copper glutamate, etc.

Unfortunately the huge majority of supplement manufactures use the lower bioavailable mineral salts because they are much cheaper vs. the much more expensive chelated minerals. Like the old saying though, “You get what you pay for”

Here is an earlier post I wrote which goes into more detail Dirt Has All the Minerals You Need.

Forms of Vitamins

Like minerals, there are different forms of some vitamins. As you can guess, then cheaper forms have lower bioavailability than the more expensive forms. The key one you’ll find is Vitamin E.  The nature form of vitamin E, as found in nature and much more bioavailability is d-alpha-tocopherol. The cheaper, and less absorbable form is dl-alpha-tocopherol. note the difference is the beginning is either d- or dl-. Both are vitamin E, but the d- form is much more absorbable. the dl- form is the same molecular structure, but just put together slightly differently. Imagine a stack of legos as the d- form. Then take off the single top rectangular block and turn it 90 degrees to the left. that is the difference in the dl- form.

Dissolution time

The final piece of the bio availability puzzle is dissolution time.  This is the measure of how long it takes a tablet to dissolve after you swallow it. The standard is 30 minutes from swallow to completely dissolved. Many inexpensive products though take much longer to dissolve and some don’t dissolve at all. If it goes straight through without dissolving, you can’t absorb any of the ingredients in it.  Ask a nurse about “Bedpan bullets”  Some they say you can still read the products name on the tablet. I’ve seen one x-ray showing 3 undissolved tablets moving through the intestine and colon. (These were a very popular grocery store and big box store brand that you see advertised frequently on TV and in print)

Like in the two previous sections, manufacturing cost comes into play.  The more tablets per hour a manufacture can press on a very expensive piece of equipment, then lower the per tablet, or per bottle cost is. So how do they increase the production speed? Simple press the ingredients in the tablet under much higher pressures so they can fly down the line faster without breaking.

The product I use and recommend tests the dissolution time of their tables during manufacturing every 30 minutes to insure they dissolve within 30 minutes. I’ve toured other plants where they never test the dissolution time.

How to Check quality

If you find a supplement that has the correct forms of ingredients, how can you tell if it is high quality or not. In a nutshell there are two areas:

  • Do they take steps to insure that what is on the label is in the tablet with the proper quantities, and
  • Do they insure there isn’t anything in the tablet that shouldn’t be in it such as heavy metal contamination, bacteria, insect parts, etc.

Here is an article that explains How to find a high quality supplement.

What is Vitamin A (From Beta-Carotene)?

This is the first in a series of nutrients from A to Z. Starting off we’ll look at Vitamin A. 

green and red healthy foodVitamin A is the name of a group of fat-soluble retinoids, including retinol, retinal, retinoic acid, and retinyl esters. Vitamin A is involved in immune function, vision, reproduction, and cellular communication. Vitamin A is critical for vision as an essential component of rhodopsin, a protein that absorbs light in the retinal receptors, and because it supports the normal differentiation and functioning of the conjunctival membranes and cornea. Vitamin A also supports cell growth and differentiation, playing a critical role in the normal formation and maintenance of the heart, lungs, kidneys, and other organs

Two forms of vitamin A are available in the human diet: preformed vitamin A (retinol and its esterified form, retinyl ester) and provitamin A carotenoids. Preformed vitamin A is found in foods from animal sources, including dairy products, fish, and meat (especially liver). By far the most important provitamin A carotenoid is beta-carotene

Carotenoids, like beta-carotene, comprise a diverse class of antioxidant molecules that help protect the body from oxidative damage. Approximately 700 natural carotenoids have been isolated and characterized. Most are derived from plants, where they serve multiple functions: photosynthetic pigments, photoprotectants, and free radical scavengers. Some 50-60 carotenoids are present in a typical diet with the major sources being fruits and vegetables.

Beta-carotene is one of the best known carotenoids, likely because: (1) it is one of the most abundant in a typical adult diet, and (2) it provides two nutritional functions – in addition to its role as an antioxidant, the human body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A.

Other members of the antioxidant carotenoid family include alpha-carotene, cryptoxanthin, zeaxanthin, lutein, and lycopene. Unlike beta-carotene, most of these nutrients are not converted to vitamin A in significant amounts.

Beta carotene’s role as an antioxidant is based on its extensive system of conjugated double bonds which, upon reacting with an oxygen atom, absorb and diffuse that oxygen’s potentially destructive energy. The oxygen atom returns to a lower energy state, and beta carotene dissipates the absorbed energy harmlessly (as heat). Similar mechanisms are involved in quenching the oxidative potential of hydroxyl radicals and other free radical compounds.

As provitamin A, beta carotene contributes to an entirely different set of functions by supplying a portion of the body’s requirement for retinol (vitamin A). In fact, a single molecule of beta-carotene can be cleaved in the body to produce two molecules of vitamin A. Other carotenoids (including alpha-carotene, gamma-carotene, and cryptoxanthin) provide provitamin A activity, but yield only one molecule of vitamin A when metabolized.

Retinol (vitamin A) is an essential nutrient associated with three important functions, the best-defined of which involves human vision. Retinol is a functional constituent of rhodopsin, a protein located in the retina of the eye that absorbs light and triggers a series of biochemical reactions that ultimately initiate nerve impulses, resulting in sight.

Secondly, vitamin A is involved in the activation of gene expression and the control of cell differentiation. It is through this function that vitamin A affects immune function, taste, hearing, appetite, skin renewal, bone development, and growth.

Vitamin A’s third role involves control of embryonic development. Here it is thought that retinoic acid modulates the expression of certain genes that govern patterns of sequential development of various tissues and organs in the body.

Vitamin A deficiency is a major public health issue, particularly in developing countries. It has been estimated that 500,000 preschool-age children worldwide become blind each year as a result of vitamin A deficiency. Millions of others suffer from night blindness, a common clinical sign of inadequate vitamin A intake. Further estimates suggest that more than 100 million children worldwide suffer from vitamin A inadequacy without showing clinical signs of acute deficiency. Beta-carotene is known to be an effective dietary cure for vitamin A deficiency and an effective remedy for symptoms of this disorder.

Epidemiological studies support long-term beneficial effects of beta-carotene intake on a number of degenerative diseases. For example, the relationship between beta-carotene intake and cancer has received considerable attention in recent years. Epidemiological evidence suggests that long-term intake of dietary beta-carotene may reduce the risk of several types of cancer. Similar findings pertain to heart disease and immune health.

Dietary sources rich in beta carotene and other provitamin A carotenoids include carrots, broccoli, yellow squash, corn, tomatoes, papayas, oranges, and dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale and Chinese cabbage. Beta-carotene is heat stable, so it is not degraded during prolonged boiling or microwaving.

Although ingestion of too much preformed vitamin A (retinol) can be toxic, excessive intake of beta-carotene is not known to induce vitamin A toxicity. Negative feedback mechanisms in the body prevent the over-conversion of beta-carotene to retinol. However, high levels of beta-carotene in the diet can induce hypercarotenosis, a benign condition characterized by a jaundice-like yellowing of the skin. Symptoms are reversed when dietary intake is reduced.

Because of the danger of excessive vitamin A, as retinal, which can be toxic, if you take supplements they should be as beta-carontene, not retinyl acetate or retinal palmitate.

Expecting mothers will be warned by their doctors to limit the intake of Vitamin A to avoid harming the fetus. I’ve recommended a top rated pre-natal supplement to clients who are expecting which has 15,000 IU of vitamin A as beta carotene. Their doctors have reviewed the label and cautioned about the level of vitamin A. What most medical doctors don’t understand is that vitamin A as beta carotene does not have any risk of toxicity as explained in the preceding paragraphs. So if you are expecting make sue your doctor understands the difference.

Additional Resources:

Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin A and Carotenoids (from the National Institute of Health)

Vitamin A – U.S. National Library of Medicine

Beta Carotene – U.S. National Library of Medicine

Vitamin A – Wikipedia

Vitamin A – Linus Pauling Institute


Want a new body? You can have one.

Your bodyTake a look at your hand. Is that the same hand you had yesterday?  A month ago? A year ago? A decade ago?  You probably said yes to all, but in reality you’re wrong. Your body is constantly replacing old cells with new cells. Check this out:

Skin cells renew every 27 to 45 days
Blood cells – 60-120 days
Entire Blood supply – 3-4 months
Epithelial cells lining your intestines – Weekly
A new skeleton – every 2 years

There are some which turnover very slowly like nerves, but aside from those you have a whole new body every couple of years, and much is only a few months old.

So that was some interesting trivia, but does it really matter? Yes it does. As your body replaces skin, blood, muscles, organs, etc. they are built from what you eat, so like the old saying You really are what you eat.

If you eat the best foods and take the best supplements then you’re body will become better and healthier day by day.  If on the other hand your diet isn’t that good and you don’t supplement, then you’re cells will still renew, but if a nutrient they need isn’t available then it just builds without it, or substuties, or takes it from someplace else, like your bones. Your skeleton is your bodies store for calcium, but your body also needs calcium for muscles to move and for nerves to carry messages between the brain and every body part. In addition, calcium is used to help blood vessels move blood throughout the body and to help release hormones and enzymes that affect almost every function in the human body. So if you’re cells need calcium for more important functions like moving blood, then you’ll rob the calcium from your bones to support your circulatory system, and you’ll be on the road to osteoporosis.

Diseases are often though of as something going wrong, but many diseases can also be the result of a nutritional deficiency. We all know of scurvy, which plagued early sailors, is caused by a lack of vitamin C. Other diseases though there isn’t such a clear connection. Essential fatty acids, like fish oil, are essential for brain health, but there isn’t a disease that is directly caused by too little fish oil, though many conditions can get better with fish oil like postpartum depression, ADHD, anxiety, and others.

So back to where I started, if you eat a healthy diet and take some excellent supplements (Not the ones you get at Costco, the grocery store, or even GNC) your body can rebuild itself with every cell of your body becoming as healthy as it can possibly be. Give it 6 months and you literally will feel like a new person.

High Vitamin D levels are associated with a reduced risk of premature death from all causes

 Vitamin D supplementation is known to benefit conditions associated with the skeletal system such as rickets, fractures and falls, as well as a range of diseases including multiple sclerosis, autoimmune disorders, infections, cardiovascular diseases and certain cancers. Non-skeletal benefits of vitamin D supplementation are still currently being debated in many cases.

In a new meta-analysis published in the British Medical Journal (1), researchers analyzed the possible association between a higher blood level of vitamin D and a reduced risk of all- cause mortality. The review included 73 observational population studies that reported vitamin D serum levels and the cause of death among 849,412 men and women over a follow up period up to 29 years.

When comparing adults with the lowest one-third of vitamin D levels to those in the highest third, subjects had a 35% higher risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease or any cause over the follow-up period. Adults with the lowest levels also had a 30% greater risk of non-vascular, non-cancer death, and a 14% higher risk of death from cancer.

Evidence from these observational studies found significant inverse associations between serum vitamin D levels and risks of death from cardiovascular disease, lymphoma, upper digestive tract cancer, and respiratory diseases. In addition, when the form of vitamin D supplementation was taken into account, vitamin D3 significantly reduced all-cause mortality by 11%. Vitamin D2, on the other hand, did not appear to have any significant effect on mortality.

Researchers noted that further studies should be done to determine the optimal dose and duration of supplementation and to further confirm whether vitamin D3 affects the mortality risk differently than vitamin D2.

How you produce Vitamin D from Sunlight

First, it’s important to understand that vitamin D3 is an oil soluble steroid hormone. It’s formed when your skin is exposed to ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation from the sun (or a safe tanning bed). When UVB strikes the surface of your skin, your skin converts a cholesterol derivative in your skin into vitamin D3.

Not any sunlight will do though, it must be strong enough for the UVB rays to penetrate deep into the skin.  An easy way to gauge the intensity of the sun is make sure that it is higher than 45 degrees in the sky. If you don’t remember your high school geometry, just stand out in the sun and look at the length your shadow (or any other object) if your shadow is shorter than you are tall, then the sun is strong enough to produce vitamin D. If it is longer then you can stand naked in the snow all day and you won’t produce any vitamin D.

Some times of they year the sun may be at that angle only mid day, in the middle of summer though it may be high enough in the sky for hours.

If you’re on statin drugs to reduce cholesterol or proton pump inhibitors like Prilosec or Prevocid, than will also lower the amount of cholesterol available to be converted into vitamin D.

Now that you’ve made Vitamin D, don’t wash it down the drain

However, the vitamin D3 that is formed is on the surface of your skin does not immediately penetrate into your bloodstream. It actually needs to be absorbed from the surface of your skin into your bloodstream.

The critical question then is: how long does it take the vitamin D3 to penetrate your skin and reach your bloodstream?

If you’re thinking about an hour or two,  you’re wrong. Because new evidence shows it takes up to 48 hours before you absorb the majority of the vitamin D that was generated by exposing your skin to the sun!

Therefore, if you shower with soap, you will simply wash away much of the vitamin D3 your skin generated, and decrease the benefits of your sun exposure. So to optimize your vitamin D level, you need to delay washing your body with soap for about two full days after sun exposure.

Now not many people are not going to bathe for two full days.

However you really only need to use soap underneath your arms and your groin area. , so this is not a major hygiene issue. You’ll just want to avoid soaping up the larger areas of your body that were exposed to the sun.

Vitamin D Supplementation

For most people who work 9-5 indoors and especially in the winter the only other alternative to basking in the sun on a tropical island is to take vitamin D supplements. These are safe and inexpensive and reduce the dependance on sunlight and the avoidance of showers. Recommended amounts vary from a small amount up to 5,000 or 10,000 IU per day, but you need to have regular blood tests to monitor your blood vitamin D levels. You want at least 50 to 90 ng/ml

(1) Rajiv Chowdhury et al.  Vitamin D and risk of cause specific death: systematic review and meta-analysis of observational cohort and randomised intervention studies. BMJ 2014;348:g1903 doi: 10.1136/bmj.g1903 (Published 1 April 2014).

What are Antioxidants

green and red healthy foodI had a friend call the other day and ask if they could just purchase the Chelated Minerals product alone?  The product we recommend consists of two bottles in one box. One labeled Chelated Minerals and the other Mega Antioxidant.  I asked why they didn’t need the Mega Antioxidant. He said that they’d been approached by a friend who was selling a product which was, they claimed, the most potent antioxidant available and he didn’t need any other antioxidants. So they decided to use this product for their antioxidants and just ours for the minerals.

The mistake that many make is thinking that an antioxidant is one thing. There are hundreds or thousands of different antioxidants.  Many common vitamins are potent antioxidants and also critical for life.

  • Take vitamin C, if your diet lacks vitamin C, you’ll develop scurvy.
  • Vitamin C is a very potent water soluble antioxidant.
  • Vitamin E is a very potent fat soluble antioxidant.
  • Beta Catoteen (a precursor of vitamin A), lycopene (from tomatoes), lutien, zeaxanthine, etc. are also antioxidants and each has an impact on different parts of the body. For sample the last two are predominantly found in the eyes and protect your eyes from oxidative damage from UV rays.
  • Many vitamins are antioxidants and essential for life – if you don’t get them you die. If you don’t get enough you get sick.  Ricks, scurvy, beri beri, plegura are all diseases of vitamin deficiency and they are antioxidants too.
  • Even minerals like Zinc can be antioxidants.

Many common foods also provide potent antioxidants:

  • Blueberries
  • Grapes and grape seeds
  • Red wine
  • Green Tea
  • Chocolate
  • Coffee
  • Carrots
  • Peppers
  • Olives
  • Oranges
  • And just about every colored fruit and vegetable.

First though, lets understand what an antioxidant is – An antioxidant is a molecule that inhibits the oxidation of other molecules. Oxidation is a chemical reaction that transfers electrons or hydrogen from a substance to an oxidizing agent. Oxidation reactions can produce free radicals. In turn, these radicals can start chain reactions. When the chain reaction occurs in a cell, it can cause damage or death to the cell. Antioxidants terminate these chain reactions by removing free radical intermediates, and inhibit other oxidation reactions. They do this by being oxidized themselves, so antioxidants are often reducing agents such as thiols, ascorbic acid, or polyphenols.

An old car rusting or an apple turning brown are examples of oxidation.

To illustrate with a simple analogy look at your fireplace (a real wood burning one). The fire is very similar to what fuels your cells. Occasionally though the fire pops out a spark, when that lands on the carpet in front of the fireplace it makes a little burn mark. Over time the carpet becomes more burn marks than carpet. Each spark is in essence a free radical flying out of the fire and damaging the carpet. In your body though, those sparks damage cell membranes, DNA, turn harmless cholesterol sticky and make it bad, etc.  So an antioxidant is like putting a screen in front of the fire. It stopes the sparks from flying out of the fireplace and causing damage.

So back to my friend. He had been sold a product which had a single antioxidant in it, but it didn’t have any antioxidant vitamins, nor did it have a variety of antioxidants, just one. Sure it may be powerful, it may even be the most potent antioxidant there is, but it is only one. Your body needs dozes or hundreds of different antioxidants. Some are fat soluble, some are water soluble, some are also essential vitamins and minerals.  Some work in your eyes, some in your blood, others in the cell membranes and in your brain.

What was my advice? Yes, it may be a good antioxidant, but it doesn’t replace all antioxidants, so add it to a diet rich in colorful fruits and vegetables, continue taking a multi with all the essentials vitamins and minerals.

Antioxidants are a huge market, walk down any grocery store aisle and you’ll see packages touting they are rich in antioxidants. There are dozens or hundreds of products being pushed on people that are supposedly the ultimate antioxidant. Even though the marketing claims that it is the most potent antioxidant product there is, it can’t replace the antioxidant vitamins, minerals, and foods rich in a multitude of antioxidants.

As a foot note, there are a couple of companies which use a device you put your finger in to supposedly measure the level of antioxidants in your body. Yes it does measure an antioxidant, it only measures the level of beta-caroteen in your skin. Beta-caroteen is just one antioxidant of hundreds or thousands, so it does indicate one measure, but far from conclusive – That is like gauging the mechanical health of your car by measuring the tread depth of just the right front tire.


Listing of Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamins and MineralsWe all see different vitamins listed on supplements and food nutrient fact panels and talked about on the 5:00 news, but did you ever wonder exactly what each vitamin is? Well below is a table with all the vitamins and some information about each.

Note that the RDA column is the minimum amount of that vitamin necessary to avoided diseases of deficiency, it is not the amount you want to strive for. The level of each which has been proven through published medical research to provide therapeutic benefits like disease prevention, cancer prevention, etc are often far greater than the RDA. Think of the RDA as just passing school with a D. What you want for good health the A+ level.


What is listed below are the essential vitamins and minerals that your body can’t produce, or possibly produces very little. So these are necessary for life and to avoid diseases of deficiency lHere are some of the diseases of vitamin deficiency: Scurvy (C), rickets (D), pellagra (B3), beri beri (B1), biotin deficiency (B7), ariboflavinosis (B2), vitamin K deficiency, hypocobalaminemia (B12), paraesthesia (B5), night blindness (A). Click here is a list of the symptoms of each of these diseases.  There aren’t names for the mineral difienciey diseases, but each can have sibilating or life threatening consequences. The one which is very common is osteoporosis. It is usually though of as a deficiency of calcium, but it is really a deficiency of calcium, magnesium, boron, vitamin D and K.

Many will assume that they can get enough of what they need from their diet alone.  The answer is mixed. You can probably get the RDA levels or at least enough to avoid devieiency, but you probably can’t get the optimal levels. For example here is a sample of what you’d need eat every day to get the optimal levels:

  • Vitamin C – 1300mg – 18 medium oranges
  • Vitamin D – 1800 IU – 44 large eggs
  • Vitamin E – 400 IU – 2 lbs of sunflower seeds and one quart of corn oil
  • Zinc – 20 mcg – 5 chicken breasts
  • Magnesium – 300 mcg – 2.5 cups of beans.

Below are the vitamins followed by the minerals.

Vitamin (common names) Benefits Recommended amount (daily RDA* or daily AI**) Upper limit (UL) per day Good food sources Did you know?
VITAMIN A(Retinol, retinal, and retinoic acid — three active forms of vitamin A in the body — are retinoids, “preformed” vitamin A. Beta carotene can easily be converted to vitamin A as needed.) Essential for vision. Lycopene may lower prostate cancer risk. Keeps tissues and skin healthy. Plays an important role in bone growth. Diets rich in the carotenoids alpha carotene and lycopene seem to lower lung cancer risk. Carotenoids act as antioxidants. Foods rich in the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin may protect against cataracts M: 900 mcg (3,000 IU)W: 700 mcg (2,333 IU)Some supplements report vitamin A in international units (IU’s). 3,000 mcg (about 10,000 IU) But use only beta carotene Sources of retinoids:beef, liver, eggs, shrimp, fish, fortified milk, cheddar cheese, Swiss cheeseSources of beta carotene:sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkins, squash, spinach, mangoes, turnip greens Many people get too much preformed vitamin A from food and supplements.Large amounts of supplemental vitamin A (but not beta carotene) can be harmful to bones.Your supplement should have all of its vitamin A as beta carotene. Your body easily converts it into vitamin A as needed.
THIAMIN(vitamin B1) Helps convert food into energy. Needed for healthy skin, hair, muscles, and brain M: 1.2 mg, W: 1.1 mg Not known Pork chops, ham, soymilk, watermelons, acorn squash Most nutritious foods have some thiamin.
RIBOFLAVIN(vitamin B2) Helps convert food into energy. yNeeded for healthy skin, hair, blood, and brain M: 1.3 mg, W: 1.1 mg Not known Milk, yogurt, cheese, whole and enriched grains and cereals, liver This along with folate and vitamins B6 and B12 are critical for maintenance of hearty healthy levels of homocysteine.
NIACIN (vitamin B3, nicotinic acid) Helps convert food into energy. Essential for healthy skin, blood cells, brain, and nervous system. Can help control blood lipids like cholesterol and triglycerides. M: 16 mg, W: 14 mg 35 mg Meat, poultry, fish, fortified and whole grains, mushrooms, potatoes, peanut butter Niacin occurs naturally in food and can also be made by your body from the amino acid tryptophan, with the help of B6.
PANTOTHENIC ACID (vitamin B5) Helps convert food into energy. Helps make lipids (fats), neurotransmitters, steroid hormones, and hemoglobin M: 5 mg, W: 5 mg Not known Wide variety of nutritious foods, including chicken, whole grains, broccoli, mushrooms, avocados, tomato products Deficiency causes burning feet and other neurologic symptoms.
VITAMIN B6(pyridoxal, pyridoxine, pyridoxamine) Aids in lowering homocysteine levels and may reduce the risk of heart disease. Helps convert tryptophan to niacin and serotonin, a neurotransmitter that plays key roles in sleep, appetite, and moods. Helps make red blood cells. Influences cognitive abilities and immune function 31–50: M: 1.3 mg, W: 1.3 mg51+: M: 1.7 mg, W: 1.5 mg 100 mg Meat, fish, poultry, legumes, tofu and other soy products, potatoes, noncitrus fruits such as bananas and watermelons Many people don’t get enough of this nutrient.This along with riboflavin, folate and vitamin B12 are critical for maintenance of hearty healthy levels of homocysteine.
Vitamin B12(cobalamin) Aids in lowering homocysteine levels and may lower the risk of heart disease. Assists in making new cells and breaking down some fatty acids and amino acids. Protects nerve cells and encourages their normal growth Helps make red blood cells M: 2.4 mcg, W: 2.4 mcg Not known Meat, poultry, fish, milk, cheese, eggs, fortified cereals, fortified soymilk Some people, particularly older adults, are deficient in vitamin B12because they have trouble absorbing this vitamin from food. A lack of vitamin B12 can cause memory loss, dementia, and numbness in the arms and legs.
BIOTIN Helps convert food into energy and synthesize glucose. Helps make and break down some fatty acidsNeeded for healthy bones and hair M: 30 mcg, W: 30 mcg Not known Many foods, including whole grains, organ meats, egg yolks, soybeans, and fish Your body needs very little biotin. Some is made by bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. However, it’s not clear how much of this the body absorbs.
VITAMIN C(ascorbic acid) Foods rich in vitamin C may lower the risk for some cancers, including those of the mouth, esophagus, stomach, and breast. Long-term use of supplemental vitamin C may protect against cataracts. Helps make collagen, a connective tissue that knits together wounds and supports blood vessel walls. Helps make the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine Acts as an antioxidant, neutralizing unstable molecules that can damage cellsBolsters the immune system M: 90 mg, W: 75 mgSmokers: Add 35 mg 2,000 mg Fruits and fruit juices (especially citrus), potatoes, broccoli, bell peppers, spinach, strawberries, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts Vitamin C works along with Vitamin E to recharge its antioxidant powers. This is a case where the two together are far superior to either individually.
CHOLINE Helps make and release the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which aids in many nerve and brain activities. Plays a role in metabolizing and transporting fats M: 550 mg, W: 425 mg 3,500 mg Many foods, especially milk, eggs, liver, and peanuts Normally the body makes small amounts of choline. But experts don’t know whether this amount is enough at certain ages.
VITAMIN D(calciferol) Helps maintain normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus, which strengthen bones. Helps form teeth and bones. Supplements can reduce the number of non-spinal fractures. Necessary for the bone mineralization. Greatly boosts the immune system. Reduced levels of vitamin D in the winter are a major cause of the winter colds and flu. 31–50: 5 mcg (200 IU) 51–70: 10 mcg (400 IU) 71+: 15 mcg (600 IU)  4,000 IU (Current research is supporting higher levels, some up to 10,000 IU) Fortified milk or margarine, fortified cereals, fatty fish Many people don’t get enough of this nutrient.While the body uses sunlight to make vitamin D, it cannot make enough if you live in northern climes or don’t spend much time in the sun.
VITAMIN E(alpha-tocopherol) Acts as an antioxidant, neutralizing unstable molecules that can damage cells. Protects vitamin A and certain lipids from damage. Diets rich in vitamin E may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Supplements may protect against prostate cancer. M: 15 mg, W: 15 mg (15 mg equals about 22 IU from natural sources of vitamin E and 33 IU from synthetic vitamin E) 1,000 mg (nearly 1,500 IU natural vitamin E; 2,200 IU synthetic) Wide variety of foods, including vegetable oils, salad dressings and margarines made with vegetable oils, wheat germ, leafy green vegetables, whole grains, nuts Vitamin E does not prevent wrinkles or slow other aging processes. There are several forms of vitamin E. The only effective form is d-alpha tocopherol. (dl-alpha-tocopherol is the much cheaper and very poorly absorbed form found in most cheap supplements.)
FOLIC ACID(folate, folacin) Vital for new cell creation. Helps prevent brain and spine birth defects when taken early in pregnancy; should be taken regularly by all women of child-bearing age since women may not know they are pregnant in the first weeks of pregnancy. Can lower levels of homocysteine and may reduce heart disease risk May reduce risk for colon cancer. Offsets breast cancer risk among women who consume alcohol M: 400 mcg, W: 400 mcg 1,000 mcg Fortified grains and cereals, asparagus, okra, spinach, turnip greens, broccoli, legumes like black-eyed peas and chickpeas, orange juice, tomato juice Many people don’t get enough of this nutrient. Occasionally, folic acid masks a B12 deficiency, which can lead to severe neurological complications. That’s not a reason to avoid folic acid; just be sure to get enough B12.
VITAMIN K(phylloquinone, menadione) Activates proteins and calcium essential to blood clotting. May help prevent hip fractures M: 120 mcg, W: 90 mcg Not known Cabbage, liver, eggs, milk, spinach, broccoli, sprouts, kale, collards, and other green vegetables Intestinal bacteria make a form of vitamin K that accounts for half your requirements.If you take an anticoagulant, keep your vitamin K intake consistent.
Mineral (common names) Benefits Recommended amount (daily RDA* or daily AI**) Upper limit (UL) per day Good food sources Did you know?
CALCIUM Builds and protects bones and teeth. Helps with muscle contractions and relaxation, blood clotting, and nerve impulse transmission. Plays a role in hormone secretion and enzyme activationHelps maintain healthy blood pressure 31–50: M: 1,000 mg, W: 1,000 mg 51+: M: 1,200 mg, W: 1,200 mg 2,500 mg Yogurt, cheese, milk, tofu, sardines, salmon, fortified juices, leafy green vegetables, such as broccoli and kale (but not spinach or Swiss chard, which have binders that lessen absorption) Adults absorb roughly 30% of calcium ingested, but this can vary depending on the source. Calcium should always be taken with magnesium, vitamin D & K, and boron to insure absorption into the bones and to eliminate the risk of heart disease and cancers which have recently appeared in the news.
CHLORIDE Balances fluids in the body. A component of stomach acid, essential to digestion Food and Nutrition Board 1989 guidelines: M: 750 mg, W: 750 mg Not known Salt (sodium chloride), soy sauce, processed foods New recommendations (DRIs) for chloride are under development by the Institute of Medicine.
CHROMIUM Enhances the activity of insulin, helps maintain normal blood glucose levels, and is needed to free energy from glucose 31–50: M: 35 mcg, W: 25 mcg 51+: M: 30 mcg, W: 20 mcg Not known Meat, poultry, fish, some cereals, nuts, cheese Unrefined foods such as brewer’s yeast, nuts, and cheeses are the best sources of chromium.
COPPER Plays an important role in iron metabolism. Helps make red blood cells M: 900 mcg, W: 900 mcg 10,000 mcg Liver, shellfish, nuts, seeds, whole-grain products, beans, prunes More than half of the copper in foods is absorbed.
FLUORIDE Keeps dental cavities from starting or worsening only when applied directly to the tooth enamel. DO NOT let it contact your gums. M: 4 mg, W: 3 mg 10 mg Water that is fluoridated, toothpaste with fluoride, marine fish, teas This is a potent neuro toxin and should not come in contact with skin or consumed in drinking water.
IODINE Part of thyroid hormone, which helps set body temperature and influences nerve and muscle function, reproduction, and growth. Prevents goiter and a congenital thyroid disorder M: 150 mcg, W: 150 mcg 1,100 mcg Iodized salt, processed foods, seafood To prevent iodine deficiencies, some countries add iodine to salt, bread, or drinking water.
IRON Helps hemoglobin in red blood cells and myoglobin in muscle cells ferry oxygen throughout the body. Needed for chemical reactions in the body and for making amino acids, collagen, neurotransmitters, and hormones 31–50: M: 8 mg, W: 18 mg 51+: M: 8 mg, W: 8 mg 45 mg Red meat, poultry, eggs, fruits, green vegetables, fortified bread and grain products Many women of childbearing age don’t get enough iron.Women who do not menstruate probably need the same amount of iron as men.Because iron is harder to absorb from plants, experts suggest vegetarians get twice the recommended amount (assuming the source is food).
MAGNESIUM Needed for many chemical reactions in the body. Works with calcium in muscle contraction, blood clotting, and regulation of blood pressureHelps build bones and teeth 31+: M: 420 mg, W: 320 mg 350 mg (Note: This upper limit applies to supplements and medicines, such as laxatives, not to dietary magnesium.) Green vegetables such as spinach and broccoli, legumes, cashews, sunflower seeds and other seeds, halibut, whole-wheat bread, milk The majority of magnesium in the body is found in bones. If your blood levels are low, your body may tap into these reserves to correct the problem.
MANGANESE Helps form bones. Helps metabolize amino acids, cholesterol, and carbohydrates M: 2.3 mg, W: 1.8 mg 11 mg Nuts, legumes, whole grains, tea If you take supplements or have manganese in your drinking water, be careful not to exceed the upper limit. Those with liver damage or whose diets supply abundant manganese should be especially vigilant.
MOLYBDENUM Part of several enzymes, one of which helps ward off a form of severe neurological damage in infants that can lead to early death M: 45 mcg, W: 45 mcg 2,000 mcg Legumes, nuts, grain products, milk Molybdenum deficiencies are rare.
PHOSPHORUS Helps build and protect bones and teeth. Part of DNA and RNA. Helps convert food into energy. Part of phospholipids, which carry lipids in blood and help shuttle nutrients into and out of cells M: 700 mg, W: 700 mg 31–70: 4,000 mg 71+: 3,000 mg Wide variety of foods, including milk and dairy products, meat, fish, poultry, eggs, liver, green peas, broccoli, potatoes, almonds Certain drugs bind with phosphorus, making it unavailable and causing bone loss, weakness, and pain.
POTASSIUM Balances fluids in the body. Helps maintain steady heartbeat and send nerve impulses Needed for muscle contractions A diet rich in potassium seems to lower blood pressure. Getting enough potassium from your diet may benefit bones Food and Nutrition Board 1989 guidelines: M: 2,000 mg, W: 2,000 mg Not known Meat, milk, fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes New recommendations (DRIs) for potassium are under development by the Institute of Medicine.Food sources do not cause toxicity, but high-dose supplements might.
SELENIUM Acts as an antioxidant, neutralizing unstable molecules that can damage cells. Helps regulate thyroid hormone activity M: 55 mcg, W: 55 mcg 400 mcg Organ meats, seafood, walnuts, sometimes plants (depends on soil content), grain products Researchers are investigating whether selenium may help reduce the risk of developing cancer.
SODIUM Balances fluids in the body. Helps send nerve impulses Needed for muscle contractions. Impacts blood pressure; even modest reductions in salt consumption can lower blood pressure Food and Nutrition Board 1989 guidelines: M: 500 mg, W: 500 mg Not determined Salt, soy sauce, processed foods, vegetables While experts recommend that people limit sodium intake to 2,400 mg, most Americans consume 4,000–6,000 mg a day.New recommendations (DRIs) for sodium are being developed by the Institute of Medicine.
SULFUR Helps form bridges that shape and stabilize some protein structures. Needed for healthy hair, skin, and nails Unknown Unknown Protein-rich foods, such as meats, fish, poultry, nuts, legumes Sulfur is a component of thiamin and certain amino acids. There is no recommended amount for sulfur. Deficiencies occur only with a severe lack of protein.
ZINC Helps form many enzymes and proteins and create new cells. Frees vitamin A from storage in the liver. Needed for immune system, taste, smell, and wound healing. When taken with certain antioxidants, zinc may delay the progression of age-related macular degeneration M: 11 mg, W: 8 mg 40 mg Red meat, poultry, oysters and some other seafood, fortified cereals, beans, nuts Because vegetarians absorb less zinc, experts suggest that they get twice the recommended requirement of zinc from plant foods.
*Recommended dietary allowance **Adequate intake

Some information source from Harvrd Health and Linus Pauling Institute.


Calcium supplementation isn’t related to an increased risk of heart disease

Chelated MineralsIf you’ve watched the news lately you may have seen a story that claims that taking calcium can lead to increased risk of heart disease. Sadly as we’ve often see these are based on very poor, or biased studies.

Calcium is an essential nutrient for skeletal health. However, a couple of recent studies have suggested that supplemental calcium may be associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, possibly by increasing carotid artery thickness.

A new study published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research reports that supplementing with calcium may decrease carotid artery thickness and heart disease risk. Australian researchers evaluated data from 1,103 older women that took part in the Calcium Intake Fracture Outcome Study, a 5 year (1998-2003) randomized controlled study. The participants were randomized to take either a 1,200 mg calcium carbonate supplement daily or a placebo. Common carotid artery intimal media thickness (an indicator of atherosclerosis) was measured at the beginning and after 3 years.

The women who took calcium supplements during the trial did not have an increase in carotid artery thickness compared to the placebo group. In fact, the presence of atherosclerosis was found in 46.7% of women taking the calcium compared to 54.7% of the women in the placebo group. The women whose total calcium intake from diet and supplements was in the top one-third of subjects had a 33% lower risk of carotid artery atherosclerosis than those whose total calcium intake was in the lowest third.

The conclusion of this study refutes the finding of recent studies showing a negative association between calcium supplementation and heart disease. Higher calcium intake through supplementation and diet may actually reduce carotid artery atherosclerosis.

One key with calcium supplementation is that you need more than calcium alone. You must also take magnesium, vitamin D, vitamin K, and boron. With all these taken to together, in the right ratios the maximum calcium will be ushered into the bone matrix. Magnesium should be half the amount of calcium. So if you take 800 mg of calcium, it should contain 400 mg of magnesium.

Key also is the vitamin D because most Americans are deficient in vitamin D. So if you’re taking pure calcium alone, switch and find a good supplement which has all the above vitamins and minerals.

Lewis JR, Zhu K, Thompson PL, Prince RL. The Effects of 3 Years of Calcium Supplementation on Common Carotid Artery Intimal Medial Thickness and Carotid Atherosclerosis in Older Women: An Ancillary Study of the CAIFOS Randomized Controlled Trial. J Bone Miner Res. 2013 Oct 23. doi: 10.1002/jbmr.2117.

Higher vitamin E levels associated with reduced bone fractures in older adults

A new study has shown that a low intake of vitamin E may significantly increase the risk of bone fractures in older adults.

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailDecreased quality of life and mortality due to osteoporotic bone fractures is a large and growing problem worldwide in both men and women. Fracture risk increases with age, but is also influenced by genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors. Research over the past several years has indicated that an increase in oxidative stress associated with aging may also play a role in age-related bone loss.

In a recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical of Nutrition, researchers sought to determine whether dietary intake of d-alpha-tocopherol (the form of vitamin E with the highest antioxidant activity) influenced fracture rates among aging women and men.

The participants in this study were taken from two large cohort studies, the Swedish Mammography Cohort (SMC) and the Uppsala Longitudinal Study of Adult Men (ULSAM). The SMC trial included 61,433 women with a follow-up period of 19 years. During the follow-up period, there were 3,871 hip fractures reported in the women, and 14,738 women that experienced a first fracture at any site. Vitamin E intake was determined through food records and food frequency questionnaires. Serum a-tocopherol (vitamin E) was measured in a subgroup of 654 men participating in the ULSAM trial.

Compared with women with the highest 20% of vitamin E intake, the women with the lowest 20% of intake had an 86% higher risk of hip fracture and a 20% higher risk of a fracture at any site. The use of a vitamin E containing supplement reduced the risk of hip fracture by 22%, and the risk of all fractures by 14%. Among the men in the ULSAM study (follow-up of 12 years), those with the vitamin E intakes in the top 20% had less than one-third the risk of a hip fracture than those with lower intakes. Men with lower vitamin E intakes had an 84% increase in risk of any fracture when compared to those with the highest intakes. In a subgroup of male subjects, for every 1 standard deviation decrease in serum vitamin E there was a 58% increase in hip fracture risk and 23% increase in risk for any fracture.

The results of this observational study indicate that vitamin E insufficiency is associated with higher bone fracture risk in elderly men and women.

There are several forms of vitamin E. d-alpha-tocopherol is the most bioactive form and is the natural form found in foods. The much less expensive, and  less effective form is dl-alpha-tocopherol, this is the form you’ll find in most supplements fortified foods. Look at your vitamin E supplement or multi to make sure it contains the far more effective d-alpha-tocopherol form. (Difference is one starts with d- vs dl-). Both are chemically vitamin E, but the only difference is how the pieces are put together. Imagine a stack of lego blocks and in the d-form the top block points at 12’oclock. the dl- form the top block points to 3 o’clock.  A minor difference, but makes a large difference in how your body uses it. The natural, d- form, is over twice as effective as the synthetic dl- form.

Karl Michaëlsson et al. Intake and serum concentrations of α-tocopherol in relation to fractures in elderly women and men: 2 cohort studies. Am J Clin Nutr January 2014 vol. 99 no. 1 107-114.

Whats the Cold Got to Do with Colds and Flu?

Horses in snowThis is for all the moms and dads who’ve warned their children throughout the years about exposure to the cold winter weather, which will inevitably lead to “catching a cold,” right?

Seriously though, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to wonder if my mom was just duping me the whole time. Both a cold and the flu are caused by viral infections, so what in the heck does cold weather have to do with anything?

It looks like we’ve stumbled across a great topic for Scientifically Speaking. I did a little digging and — as always — got a few leads from our expert scientists. I’d like to say I’ve got a solid answer for you guys, but there seems to be some difference of opinion within the medical community. Let’s break down my findings, shall we?

Cold vs. Flu

Before we dive into all the cold weather talk, let’s discuss what a cold actually is. With more than 200 viruses causing it, the common cold is a viral infectious disease that usually leads to symptoms such as coughing, sore throat, runny nose, and sneezing.

The most common virus strands that cause a cold are rhinoviruses, and all of those nasty symptoms you experience are actually a result of your body’s immune response to the infection rather than the deterioration of tissue that the actual virus causes. In more extreme cases, the virus causing your cold can lead to viral or bacterial pneumonia.

The flu, or influenza, is also a respiratory infection, but it’s caused specifically by influenza viruses and usually leads to more severe symptoms such as fever, body aches, chills and headaches. There are three different types of flu viruses, all of which humans are susceptible to.

What the Experts Say

The National Institutes of Health uncovered some evidence that might back up your parent’s argument to keep warm during the winter season. These findings are specifically associated with the flu virus and its outer covering, or envelope.

The study showed that colder temperatures, near or below freezing, cause the flu virus to form a rubbery, gel-like covering that shields the virus, allowing for easier transfer from person to person. Once the virus enters the body, usually through mucus membranes in the mouth, nose or eyes, it reaches warmer temperatures in the respiratory tract and causes the covering to melt. The virus’ outer covering then reaches a liquid phase, allowing it to infect the cells of its new host.

119013316On the flip side, during warmer seasons the temperature is too high for the viral membrane to enter its gel state. Because of this, flu viruses often can’t withstand the elements and will dry out and weaken, leading to the end of “flu season.” This led the scientists to wonder whether people might better protect themselves against the flu by remaining indoors at warmer temperatures than usual.

What the Other Experts Say

According to other experts, staying indoors might be the worst thing you can do for yourself throughout the winter. A leading theory is that confinement breeds infection.

“In winter, we spend more time indoors, in rooms that may not get a lot of circulation, giving us more opportunities to be exposed to respiratory viruses,” says William Schaffner, M.D., chairman of the department of preventive medicine at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, in this Real Simple article.

Additionally, Schaffner adds, the winter air, inside and outside, also tends to be less humid, drying nasal passages and making them more vulnerable to viral invasion.

What You Can Do

These are only two opinions on the subject of winter sickness, but there’s a lot of information out there. Do some investigating yourself to see what the research tells us.

In the meantime, the best thing you can do to fight that winter virus is take preventative measures that support a healthy immune system. Evidence suggests that a healthy dose of both vitamin C and zinc may help. Deficiency in either of these may make individuals more susceptible to impaired immune response. Healthy adults generally need at least 75–90 mg of vitamin C and 8–11 mg of zinc per day to avoid severe deficiency.

Another important way to protect yourself from a virus is to avoid any kind of hand-to-face contact. Typically, a virus enters through hand-to-eye, -nose, or -mouth transmission. And of course, don’t forget to take the obvious precautions: healthy diet and exercise, sufficient amounts of sleep, disinfecting germ-susceptible areas, and regularly washing hands.

Vitamin D

Another factor is as the days grow shorter and people spend more time indoors they receive less sunshine and produce less vitamin D. Vitamin D is strongly associated with immune system health, so when your vitamin D levels plunge during the winter you are more susceptible to catching the cold and flu virus.

From my personal experience I’ve been taking 6,000 IU of vitamin D per day for the past 8 years. Since then I’ve never caught a full-blown cold or flu. I may get the tickle in the back of my throat, but come the next morning rather than having a full blown cold it is gone.

Vitamin D and osteoporosis

bigstock-Vitamin-D-Written-In-The-Sand-38126068See the latest headlines that vitamin D supplementation doesn’t reduce hip fracture and osteoporosis risk? If you saw it, or herd it, just ignore it, otherwise you could suffer.  This is another example of researchers using selective criteria in a meta analysis to get the results they want. In this case they ignored the science of bone health and selected only one nutrient, vitamin-D, to study.

When they looked at vitamin D supplementation alone, there wasn’t much of reduction in osteoporosis. but when you look at vitamin D and Calcium together there was a 14% reduction. Had they looked at all the vitamins and minerals necessary for bone growth and remineralization, calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, vitamin K, boron, and selenium, then there would have been a very positive result.  Vitamin D is necessary and must be present for calcium to be absorbed into the bone matrix, but calcium and the other vitamins and minerals listed must also be present. A deficiency in any listed above will hamper calcium absorption.

Many studies you see regarding various vitamins and minerals tend to look at just one vitamin or mineral to measure its impact and treat it like they are studying a drug. Vitamins, minerals, and trace elements all work together to support your bodies biological functions, they don’t work in isolation.

When you see mention of a meta analysis be especially wary. A meta analysis is not a new research study. In a meta analysis they look at multiple existing studies and attempt to draw a conclusion from those. In selecting studies to include in the meta analysis they have selection criteria, in this case studies involving vitamin D and osteoporosis.  What that did was exclude studies which looked at vitamin D and calcium, or vitamin D, calcium, magnesium, vitamin K, boron, and silicon. Had they found studies with the latter combination of nutrients the results would have been much different.

So why would a researcher not look at other studies? To answer that you usually have to look at who funded the study. Often pharmaceutical drug companies will fund such studies to discredit natural alternatives vs. their high profit drugs, and there have been studies showing that who funded the study has a very good likelihood that the researcher will find results favorable to who is paying the bill.  I couldn’t find the source of the funding for this study, but my guess they had an interest in promoting high cost drugs vs inexpensive supplements.

The Institute of Medicine recommends dietary intake for adults of 600-800 IU of vitamin D and 1000-1300 mg of calcium daily, and the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans identifies supplements containing combinations of certain nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D as useful in postmenopausal women who have low levels of these nutrients in their diets to reduce the risk of osteoporosis. In addition, the Food and Drug Administration has an approved health claim for calcium, vitamin D and osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis-related fractures in the U.S. cost an estimated $14 billion in 2012. They also place tremendous financial, mental and physical burdens on the individual. A new economic report from Frost and Sullivan found that over $12 billion in cumulative osteoporosis-attributed cost savings is potentially realizable, between 2013 and 2020, if U.S. women over the age of 55 diagnosed with osteoporosis were to use calcium and vitamin D dietary supplements at what the report identified as preventive intake levels. The daily cost per person in the targeted population to supplement would be $.16—not ‘expensive’ compared to the costs one, or the overall system, would incur if appropriate levels of vitamin D were not met. Supplementation is smart prevention.

Source: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(13)61647-5/abstract

ADHD symptoms related to low omega-3 levels in children

Salmon fillet


Two recent studies examined the possible correlation between omega-3 levels and symptoms and behaviors associated with ADHD. Children with ADHD were more likely to have low levels of omega-3 fatty acids, and a correlation between low omega-3 levels and anti-social behavior and emotional regulation was also reported.

What that translates to is that children with low omega-3 levels are more prone to ADHD and anti-social behaviors. Other studies have shown that when these children are given omega-3 oils that the anti-social and ADHD behaviors improve, or go away.

So why do children have low levels of Omega-3 oils, and in increasing numbers? Look at the foods we eat. Half a century ago cattle and chickens ate what they have eaten for eons, grass for cattle, and seeds and grubs for poultry, and fish came from the sea. But now cattle, poultry, and much of the seafood you buy is fed a diet of corn, soy, and other grains. These fatten them up quickly, but they are also very low in the anti-inflammatory omega-3 and much higher in the inflammatory omega-6 oils.

So with the natural soruces of healthy omega-3 oils no longer in our diets there is a deficiency of omega-3 oil in your body. If you look at your brain it is 70% fats and much of that is omega-3s. So no wonder the deficiency reveals itself in mental problems. Another common ailment is postpartum depression some mothers suffer. As the baby grows it takes what it needs from the mother. If the mother’s diet is low in omega-3, then she will take omega-3 from her brain to help the baby, and the result is postpartum depression.

Here are the details:

Previous research has reported abnormal plasma fatty acid profiles in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and has suggested some symptoms of ADHD may be benefited with omega-3 supplementation.

Recently the journal Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes, and Essential Fatty Acids, published two related research studies looking at the possible connection between low blood levels omega-3 acids and emotional health in children.

The aim of the first study was to determine whether ADHD children have abnormal plasma omega-3 levels, and whether ADHD symptoms and associated behaviors are correlated with omega-3 levels. Subjects included 29 male children diagnosed with ADHD and 43 who were not. Plasma DHA was lower in ADHD children compared to controls. Callous-unemotional (CU) traits were found to be significantly inversely related to both EPA and total omega-3s in the group with ADHD. The results showed that anti-social and callous-unemotional traits in ADHD may be associated with lower omega-3 levels.

It is known that ADHD is often associated with poor emotion regulation. In a second study researchers looked at the differences between ADHD and non-ADHD children in omega 3 and 6 fatty acid plasma levels and the potential relationship between them and emotion-elicited event-related potentials (ERPs).

Thirty-one children with ADHD and 32 without were compared in their plasma omega-3/6 levels and corresponding ERPs during an emotion processing task. Children with ADHD had lower average omega-3/6 levels, and ERP abnormalities were significantly associated with lower omega-3 levels in the ADHD group.The results of this study show for the first time that lower omega-3 fatty acids are associated with compromised emotion processing in children with ADHD.

These studies show for the first time that low omega-3 fatty acid levels may be related to poorer emotion regulation and anti-social and callous unemotional traits in male children and adolescents.

Gow RV et al. Omega-3 fatty acids are inversely related to callous and unemotional traits in adolescent boys with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2013 Jun;88(6):411-8.

Gow RV et al. Omega-3 fatty acids are related to abnormal emotion processing in adolescent boys with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2013 Jun;88(6):419-29.

Do this for a shorter hospital stay

SupplementsA growing body of evidence suggests that malnutrition is a serious and often unrecognized problem among hospitalized patients. Malnourished patients are more likely to experience an increased length of stay, higher health care costs, more complications, and a greater chance of readmission and death.

In a  study published in the American Journal of Managed Care, researchers looked to determine whether oral nutritional supplements, delivering both macronutrients and micronutrients in addition to normal food intake, would improve outcomes in hospitalized patients.

They used data gathered between 2000 and 2010 to examine the effect of oral nutritional supplements on hospital  outcomes by comparing hospital stays where nutritional supplements were provided with similar hospital stays that did not provide supplements. A total of 1,160,088 total patients were analyzed (580,044 given oral supplements matched with 580,044 not given supplements). The length of hospital stay and cost of treatment  were measured in addition to the probability of hospital readmission within 30 days.

The researchers found that patients that were provided with nutritional supplements had a 21% (2.3 days) reduction in the length of hospital stay which also resulted in a cost savings of $4,734. Supplementation also reduced the probability of patient readmission by 6.7%.

Consistent with results from previous randomized controlled trials, this study indicates that the use of oral nutritional supplements may lead to a significant reduction in the length of hospital stays, cost, and chances of readmission. And, given the prevalence of malnutrition among this population, nutritional supplementation would be a cost effective method of improving health outcomes while also reducing health care spending.

As a personal example my 85 year old mother fell and broke her leg. Since she still lived alone she stayed in the hospital’s long term nursing facility.  After five weeks they did an x-ray of the break and found no bone growth.  In my visits there when she ate her meals were nutritionally void. Breakfast may be oatmeal, coffee, maybe a little fruit. Lunch might be a bowl of soup, small salad, and a sandwich, dinner wasn’t much better than lunch.  She had few nutrient dense foods, and very few that had high calcium levels.  I went against the doctors orders and snuck in a calcium supplement which also contained all the other nutrients necessary for bone health (magnesium, D, K, silicon, and boron). In the next 5 weeks her diet was unchanged, but upon the next xray she was fully healed and released back home.  Had she received supplemental calcium and other nutrients upon admission, she would have cut her hospital stay in half.

Source: Tomas J Phillipson et al.  Impact of Oral Nutritional Supplementation on Hospital Outcomes. Am J Manag Care. 2013;19(2):121-128

Melatonin – Its not just for Sleep

couple sleeping

Melatonin is a hormone produced in the pineal gland in your brain in response to the sun going down and getting dark, then melatonin production increases. In the morning when the light of day hits your eyes, melatonin production stops and you wake up. Because it is such a great natural sleep aid many people take a melatonin supplement when they go to bed to help them sleep. It is non addictive and doesn’t have any of the dangerous side effects of sleep drugs.

As we age our natural melatonin production decreases, but below are a list of other very beneficial ways melatonin can improve your health and why you may want to start taking a melatonin supplement before you go to bed.

  • Melatonin fights brain changes in Alzheimer’s Disease. Studies have also shown that melatonin helps protect the brain neurons from the two proteins which damage the nerve cells that leads to Alzheimer’s. Melatonin supplementation must be begun early on as once the damage is done it can’t reverse it.
  • Melatonin fights Parkinson’s at the earliest stages. Some studies have shown that melatonin supplementation can prevent and even reverse some of the changes in behavior found in Parkinson’s patients.
  • Melatonin cuts the risk of stroke – As we age melatonin levels decrease and with that decrease there is a proportional increase in the risk of stroke.
  • Melatonin has been shown to reduce cholesterol accumulation by 42% and helps reduce blood pressure into the normal levels.
  • If you do have a stroke melatonin can reduce the amount of damage in the area of the stroke by inhibiting the production of “protein melting” enzymes which can damage the blood brain barrier in the area of the stroke.
  • It shields your brain from traumatic injury. In traumatic brain injury, like from an auto accident, it is the oxidative damage to the brain cells which causes much of the damage. Melatonin is a powerful antioxidant and can protect the brain cells in the area of the injury.
  • You may have heard of the benefits of calorie restriction diets which can add years of healthy life. Melatonin seems to increase the expression of the same “Longevity protein” SIRT1 which triggers the expression of a number of self-healing genes just like the calorie restriction diet does. Much easier to comply with too!

With all of the benefits you need to begin melatonin supplementation early as it won’t do much good after signs of neurological diseases begin or traumatic injury happens.

There are dangers though. Most of the readily available melatonin comes from the pineal gland of animals, typically from cattle slaughter houses.  If the cow has a viral infection, like mad cow disease, then there is a good chance that intact virus will be in the melatonin and can’t be filtered or purified out.  There are a few producers of synthetic melatonin, which is made from non-animal ingredients, which are free from these risks (and also vegan friendly). Unfortunately most of the melatonin products I’ve seen on the store shelves don’t say if they are from animal sources or the much safer synthetic sources. I do know the one I use is synthetic and safe.


All Supplements aren’t made to the same Quality Standards.

Why does quality matter

If you’ve followed this blog for a while you’ll know I always stress taking only very high quality supplements. In this post I’ll explain why that is and the difference between low quality and high quality supplements. For many products though, quality is pretty easy to see, high quality foods look nice, aren’t moldy, smell and taste good, and don’t make you sick.  Supplements though are different. They all look the same – you don’t taste them and it is hard to tell what is in them.

So you have to trust that the manufacture took care in manufacturing the supplement and followed the proper manufacturing and quality procedures. Each month though ConsumerLabs.com tests a group similar products. It is very common for 15% to 35% to fail because of too little or too much of an ingredient or for undeclared contaminates like lead, arsenic, or mercury.

Doesn’t the FDA inspect product quality?

Many people assume that the FDA insures the product quality and inspects the products. Sadly, like for food, the FDA is primarily concerned about product safety and inspects facilities to insure that they are following proper cleaning procedures, that there isn’t bacteria like listeria or salmonella present in the equipment, that there are rodents present, etc.  What they don’t do is inspect the product to insure that what is supposed to be in the product is in three and nothing else.

They also don’t regulate or inspect that they are using the best form of the ingredients. More about that in other posts, but for say magnesium or vitamin E there are cheap, but poorly absorbable forms, and there are much more absorbable forms, but usually they are much more expensive. So if they say it contains magnesium or vitamin E, the FDA doesn’t care which form, as long as it is properly labeled if they do say which from.

Different types of quality requirements

The basic FDA quality requirement is like discussed in the section above, just insure that the plant is sanitary, safe, and the products aren’t contaminated, and that the product is properly labeled. These guidelines are called cGMP, or Current Good Manufacturing Practices. This is very similar to the food requirements. The FDA doesn’t care if the pizza has an a few extra, or fewer pepperonis, as long as it has some pepperonis and it isn’t moldy.

Prescription pharmaceutical drugs are different though since the active ingredient in each tablet could be just a few milligrams – so a spec of salt possibly. In this case the FDA has much stricter requirements to insure that if a drug should contain 2mg of the active ingredient, that every tablet contains exactly 2mg – not 3mg in one and 1 in another, even though it averages out to 2mg/tablet. There are also much stricter requirements on sanitation to insure that there isn’t cross contamination between different production lines in the same area. You’ll see warnings on foods that they were manufactured in a plant that also processes peanuts. You don’t see a warning label on a drug that it is manufactured in a plant that also makes viagra. There are much stricter requirements that the exact quantity of every ingredient is in each tablet (or capsule, bottle, etc.). There are also very strict documentation requirements.  These much stricter standards are called Pharmaceutical GMP, or Pharmaceutical Good Manufacturing Practices.

The huge majority of the supplement manufactures follow the less stringent cGMP requirements – it is easier, insures basic safety, and is much cheaper to adhere to.  Only a few will follow the much more costly Pharmaceutical GMPs.

Different areas of product qualtiy inspection

If you were to walk through two different plants, one cGMP and the other following Pharmaceutical GMPs below are some of the differences you’d see. I didn’t make these up, in the few examples in both columns these are from actual plants I’ve visited and toured.

Area cGMP Pharmaceutical GMP
Receiving Only some lots of incoming raw materials may be tested. It is optional Multiple samples from every lot are tested to insure that what is supposed to be in the shipment is actually there. Will also test for bacteria and contaminants. A typical ingredient may be subjected to more than a dozen different tests.
Warehouse Optional, but expiration dates will be respected. Expiration dates will be respected plus if the material is prone to break down and lose potency then it will be periodically retested to adjust for the loss of potency.
Measuring out Ingredients Can be done in the open. One person will typically weigh out an ingredient and add to the batch and check it off the sheet. – Measuring will take place in air tight rooms to insure there isn’t any contamination when the containers are open.- Two workers will be present. They will verify the item number, lot number, weight it out and the two of them will double check that every thing is correct and sign off on it.- The dispensing room will be thoroughly cleaned before the next ingredient is brought in and opened.
Manufacturing tablets will be pressed or capsules filled. May be some visual testing that the product looks OK, but probably no in-process testing. At set intervals, typically 30 minutes tablets will be checked for weight, hardness, dissolve-ability, and chemical/biological testing. If there is a problem, production is stopped.
Post Manufacturing Optional, but once a month they may test the finished product to make sure there aren’t any biological contaminants and may test the amount of key ingredients. Every production batch will be fully tested to insure that every ingredient is present in the exact amount and that there aren’t any heavy metal contaminants and no bacterial contamination.There will also be 100% visual inspection of every tablet to insure there aren’t any broken or chipped tablets.
Paperwork The Batch Ticket may be one or two pages long and is filed and retained. The batch ticket may be over 100 pages long with hundreds or thousands of signatures. Quality Control will review the entire document making sure every entry was correct. If where notes of a production problem, then that will be investigated and its potential impact on the product assessed.
General production environment. – Hair nets required- Facility can be a regular warehouse.- Entry allowed by anyone through regular doors.- I’ve actually witnessed dogs running around the production area in one plant and people smoking. (were the owners pets) – Hair/beard nets, gloves, booties, sterile outer garments.- Sealed manufacturing area with positive pressure HEPA filtered air.- Only authorized personnel are allowed inside of the manufacturing area.- Entry is through an air-lock to insure no outside air enters.

– In general the production area will be cleaner than a hospital operating room.

FDA Inspection Periodic to insure it is sanitary. In fact the one with the dogs running around and people smoking passed their FDA inspection a week prior to my visit. If the facility is registered as a Pharmaceutical Facility then the FDA will validate all their procedures and make sure that every written procedure is followed and adheres to the Pharmaceutical GMP requirements. FDA will also inspect the facility for cleanness and sanitation


There are two mindsets of supplement manufactures:

  1. Make the product safe, but at the lowest possible cost. They know the consumers don’t know how to tell one product from another, so put cheap tablets in the bottle and wrap it with lots of hype and slick advertising.
  2. Never compromise on product quality. Use only the best ingredients and insure the quality is perfect for every tablet in every batch. Those who register their facilities as an pharmaceutical drug company with the FDA are then inviting the FDA to audit them to the much stricter Pharmaceutical GMPs.

As a footnote many companies don’t manufacture their own products but will use contract manufactures to do the actual manufacturing and put the burden of quality on them, but the contract manufacture’s charge for the service provided. so you can get a product made with no inspection at all, or they can pay many thousands of dollars more per batch to have the inspection done.  Some companies will say they use contract manufactures who meet pharmaceutical GMP requirements. The reality is that the company may meet those requirements, but they will only follow those procedures if you pay for it – so a deceptive play on words.

Bottom line, you can guess which products I use. It is registered with the FDA as a drug establishment and strictly adheres to pharmaceutical GMPs and has had their compliance verified by NSF, an independent 3rd party certification organization. I spent two full days auditing their manufacturing quality procedures and they are better than many of the biotech and pharmaceutical drug companies I’ve worked with.

Recent Omega-3 Fish Oil and Prostate Cancer Study is Seriously Flawed.

Earlier this week every major news media was running a report claiming that a recent study proved that high intakes of fish oil supplements caused a 71% increase in prostate cancer. Then they usually brought on their resident MD who confirmed that yes this appeared to be true and they should stop taking all fish oil supplements. The problem is I doubt any of them read the study, they just repeated the headline.

Over the years there have been over 2,000 studies which have looked at fish oil and cancer. Most found that fish oil lowers the risk and death rate for many types of cancer, including prostate. So lets take a closer look at the study and you’ll quickly see how flawed it is and really seems to just an error filled attempt to slander the fish oil supplement industry.

The study they pulled data from was the abandoned SELECT trail that ran between 2001 and 2004 looking at the effects of selenium and Vitamin E on cancer prevention. The study was not designed to look at omega 3 levels,  so the study was not looking at fish oil in relation to prostate cancer, but they pulled data from this study anyways.

Here is a summary of the errors they made.

  • The participates in the study had their blood lipid (fat) levels checked when they signed up for the study. It was the one and only test the 834 participates had of their blood lipid and omega-3 levels.
  • The study included sick and healthy people, but no indication of who may be taking fish oil supplement. It is common to find that when someone becomes ill that then they will start trying different alternative treatments, like fish oil, to help combat their disease.
  • Every man in this study already had prostate cancer
  • The study jumps to the conclusion that since fish oil supplements are so commonly taken that they could have contributed to the increase, yet no data to support that
  • The test only measured the percentage of omega-3 oil compared to total blood lipids. They never looked at the actual amount of omega-3 fats in the blood.
  • There were no questions about dietary or supplement use. Nor were there questions of when the last piece of fish was eaten or fish oil, krill oil, or flax seed oil supplement was taken. This makes sense as the original study wasn’t looking at omega-3, but only selenium and vitamin-E
  • the difference between the blood levels of omega-3 was only 0.2% between the high and the low.  This is statistically an insignificant difference in omega-3 levels. (High was 4.66% vs 4.48% for the low)
  • If the findings of the study were true, then you should find epidemic prostate cancer in countries and areas where fatty fish consumption is high like the Scandinavian countries, Japan and much of Asia, but prostrate cancer is low in these areas.
  • The statistical model they used (Cox proportional hazards) doesn’t apply to a single measurement vs a later outcome. This statistical model is designed to look at a long term daily use of a drug, food, supplement vs the outcome. Had an appropriate statistical method been used the outcome could have been completely different.
  • Even with the statical model they used, the difference between the omega-3 fatty acids was NOT statistically significant.
  • The same researcher, Brasky, had another study in 2011 which didn’t show any correlation between omega-3 and prostate cancer.
  • They cited another study by Chavarro in 2007 that showed a very strong benefit of fish oil sources of omega-3 in protecting against prostate cancer.
  • There was no control group in this study. The original study which was abandoned did have a control group, but none in the data they pulled.
  • The overall levels of fish oil found were low, so it’s likely they were NOT supplementing.
  • It is known that fat is the fuel of prostate cancer, and since this study was done in the U.K. where a lot of fish and chips are eaten is it possible that the fish oil was coming from fried fish and that those people with prostate cancer had higher fats in their diet and that that was the true link to prostate cancer- but none of this information is available in the study data.

Other factors to consider:

  • A recent study my Szymanski in 2010 showed a large reduction in late stage or fatal prostate cancer.
  • Several other studies, Lietzman, 2004 and Terry 2001, showed in large populations that increased omega-3 consumption correlated to a reduction in prostate cancer.
  • A recent study by Zheng in 2013 looking at over 500,000 participants and 16,000 incidence of breast cancer found that each 0.1g increase in omega-3 daily consumption correlated to a 5% decrease in risk of breast cancer.  So the average fish oil supplement is 1,000 mg, or 1.0 g, so that would be a 50% reduction in breast cancer risk.
  • The study was funded by the National Cancer Institute. Many will argue this, but the pharmaceutical and health care industry can not afford a cure for cancer. It is a multi billion dollar industry and if cancer were cured think of the drug companies, hospitals, oncologist, etc who would be out of business. So the health care industries and especially the pharmaceutical companies will fund studies which are geared to discredit what does work, but they can’t make money on.

In summary, this study should never have been published and should have been rejected. I suspect though that as quickly and powerfully that it came out in the media that there was a real PR push behind it – Someone wanted to damage the supplement industry and they jumped to the conclusion that fish oil supplements were the cause when the study never even disclosed if a single person even took supplments of any kind, at fatty fish, etc.

Here is the study which is making the headlines  http://jnci.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2013/07/09/jnci.djt174.abstract

Download the full study here Fatty acids and prostate cancer JNCI Brasky July 2013.pdf

Here is a critical critique by a professor of Radiation Oncology department at the Harvard Medical School Click Here



Want to reduce your risk of Melanoma? Then get out in the sun.

Get your sunshine Vitamin DWe’ve been told for years to not go out in the sun without being slathered with sunscreen, and to reapply it regularly. Sure this prevents a painful sunburn, but it also blocks your vitamin D production. More and more research is coming out showing the cancer preventive effects of vitamin D. Unfortunately our vitamin D levels have plummeted as we’ve been scared sunless.

Vitamin D affects your biological function by influencing nearly 3,000 of your genes through vitamin D receptors. In fact, vitamin D receptors are found throughout your body, which should come as no surprise, given we humans evolved in the sun.

A research study involving 10,000 individuals showed that correcting a vitamin D deficiency can cut your risk of dying in half. Sun exposure also increases nitric oxide production which is great for  lowering blood pressure and increasing heart health and the benefits more than outweighs the risk of skin cancer.

If you’ve been avoiding the sun like the plague, you’ll be relieved to know that melanoma is not caused by sun exposure. Although the reported number of new cases of melanoma in the US has been reportedly increasing for more than 30 years, a landmark study in the British Journal of Dermatology suggests this apparent increase is a result of non-cancerous lesions being misclassified as “stage 1 melanoma.” In other words, people are being diagnosed with melanoma even when they have only a minimal, non-cancerous lesion, and these diagnoses are significantly skewing cancer statistics. The sun is nothing more than a scapegoat in this phenomenon of “increased melanoma.”

The medical journal, The Lancet, wrote“Paradoxically, outdoor workers have a decreased risk of melanoma compared with indoor workers, suggesting that chronic sunlight exposure can have a protective effect.”  Melanoma also does not predominantly appear on sun exposed skin, but can appear anyplace on your body.

Increased UV exposure can increase the risk of basal cell or squamous cell carcinomas, which are fairly benign by comparison, The risks associated with insufficient vitamin D are far greater.

Vitamin D’s protective effect against cancer works in multiple ways, including:

  • Increasing the self-destruction of mutated cells (which, if allowed to replicate, could lead to cancer)
  • Reducing the spread and reproduction of cancer cells
  • Causing cells to become fully differentiated (cancer cells often lack differentiation)
  • Reducing the growth of new blood vessels from pre-existing ones, which is a step in the transition of dormant tumors turning cancerous.

Many actually did double harm to themselves by slathering on the sunscreen. Sunscreen typically only block the UVB rays, these are the burning rays, but it is also UVB which stimulates the production of vitamin D. By blocking the UVB rays they didn’t burn as rapidly, so they stayed in the sun longer, but the UVA rays still penetrated deep into the skin which causes skin aging, wrinkles, etc.

So, this summer, get outside, enjoy the sun, just don’t get burned.  15-30 minutes of midday sun can give you a good dose of vitamin D, then put on a sun screen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays.

If you are confined to an office indoors and can’t get some mid day summer sun, then be sure to supplement with vitamin D and get your blood serum levels of vitamin D tested. It is hard to overdose on vitamin D, but a vitamin D deficiency can be deadly.