Can Blood Tests Tell You What Supplements You Should be Taking?

To many consumers all supplements appear about the same, so how do you tell which is better? Sadly often there is little difference between the products and often they buy standard supplements from large manufactures.  So how does a company try to differentiate themselves from another? One common ploy is hype and marketing. A few cleaver company has come up with a marketing twist – Blood, hair, urine, or DNA testing.
The marketing sounds great – Have a blood test done (for a high price) and they will do an analysis of your nutritional status and deliver to you a customized supplement to restore your nutritional deficiencies. Sounds great, but there are some problems with this marketing:

First lets look at DNA testing. You’re DNA is virtually unchanged from birth till death excepting a very few minor mutations. There is nothing in your DNA which would determine which supplements you may need. There may be clues there someplace, but there is no research which supports any of these claims.

Blood, Urine, or Hair testing: There are a number of problems to the feasibility of this marketing tact.

  • There is no single simple test (blood, urine, hair, etc.) that can accurately determine a persons nutritional status. Some nutrients are tested more accurately with urine (magnesium), while others require very sensitive blood tests (vitamin C).  Some circulate freely in your blood, others are stored in your liver and released as needed. It would require a dozen or more separate, and some very expensive, tests to accurately assess your nutrient status.
  • Your nutrient status at any moment is the results of what you’ve eaten and done in the preceding hours or days. Most water soluble vitamins are very rapidly metabolized and excreted. So did you have a glass of OJ this morning or not? Was the blood test an hour after you ate or 8 hours? What did you have for breakfast? How about dinner the night before? They will all affect your results.
  • What you do. If you eat the exact same diet and one day and just sit at the desk, you’ll probably have too much of several vitamins/minerals and will excrete them. But if instead you go out and run 10 miles you’ll burn up a ton of antioxidants and other nutrients used in energy production. So what you’ve done in the hours or days before the test will affect the results.
  • Finally no company can make a truly customized supplement. The cost would be prohibitive plus a number of nutrients can’t be in the same delivery system (pill, liquid, capsule, etc) as the ingredients will react with each other over time. 

For the reasons above it isn’t practical to use these sorts of tests to determine what you should be taking. If you really wanted to accurately assess your nutrient status you’d need to take multiple tests in multiple scenarios to see what your ranges are over a number of days/weeks, different meals, different activity levels to see what your high and low levels are. But again, those would be only at the time you take the tests. You probably wouldn’t be having blood drawn at 2:00am when you need higher minerals to support repair.

Another tool some companies use is to take biometric data (height, weight, etc) general lifestyle, stress, activity levels, family history, etc. to come up with some recommendations.  This is a better method. If you’re knees and hips hurt, then it would make sense to suggest a product for joint health. If you’re on statin drugs, CoQ10 makes sense. If you’re a man, then saw palmetto. If you’re stressed, very active, exposed to toxins, etc, then extra antioxidants.  Like your car – If you live in Minneapolis and have a daily commute, then it is a good recommendation to equip your car with snow tires. You may not need them most days, but chances are you’ll need them from time to time.

Again with the companies which use a survey, they can suggest lifestyle changes and which supplement to use, but no company will make a customized supplement just for you. I went to one well known company, which claimed to make a customized package based on a survey. I did it once as myself, once as a pregnant 18 year old, and once as a 80 year old with diabetes, heart disease, etc. Guess what. I got exactly the same recommendation for each person.

So what do you do? Take a multivitamin/multi-mineral product which has optimal levels of all the essential nutrients and micronutrients and anti-oxidants necessary for most every adult. Not RDA levels, but often far above RDA levels. This way if you eat lots of organic, low glycemic foods, drink filtered water, and sit at your desk breathing purified air and out of the sunlight, then you may have too many of some antioxidants and nutrients and pee them out. No problems. Like going to a buffet when you aren’t that hungry.  But If you hop in the car with the top down drive on the freeway for 20 miles to Boulder and run up boulder canyon 20 miles, then you will burn up lots of antioxidants and vitamins and will consume more minerals at night when you rebuild – Like going to the buffet when you’re starving, you’ll eat much more, you just don’t want to run out of anything. So with a high quality product having optimal amounts for normal adults you’ll always have enough of every nutrient. If you don’t need it today, then it goes down the drain. If you do need it, then they are there, so your cells never go hungry.

Then for specific individual needs there are the optimizers. For example a saw palmetto product for us boys and PhytoEstryn for the women. Fish oil for those who don’t eat much fish. a Glucosamine/Turmeric product for those of us who tear up our joints. For extra antioxidant protection and to help aid heart health there is a grape-seed/Vitamin-C product. etc.

Lack of Prenatal Vitamin Use Linked to Autism

Women who didn’t take prenatal vitamins early in pregnancy had an elevated risk of having a child with autism spectrum disorder, U.S. researchers say.

Lead author Rebecca J. Schmidt, an assistant professor at the University of California, Davis, School of Medicine, says the researchers collected data from approximately 700 California families with children ages 2-5, who had autism or typical development. The autism diagnoses were confirmed through testing at the UC Davis MIND Institute, Schmidt says.

Women who participated in the study were asked by telephone whether they took prenatal vitamins, multivitamins or other supplements at any time during the three months prior to and during their pregnancies and during breastfeeding.

“Mothers of children with autism were significantly less likely than those of typically developing children to report having taken prenatal vitamins during the three months before and the first month of pregnancy,” Schmidt says in a statement.

The study, scheduled to be published in the journal Epidemiology in July, found for women with a particular high-risk genetic makeup who reported not taking prenatal vitamins, the estimated risk of having a child with autism was as much as seven times greater than in women who did report taking prenatal vitamins, but who had more favorable gene variants.

So more good reasons to take supplements before you become pregnant and when you are pregnant. But which to take? There was a study done at the University of Maryland of the nine most popular prescription prenatal vitamins and it turned out that only three of the nine tablet dissolved! That means that six out of nine are useless. if they don’t dissolve in a reasonable time, they won’t be absorbed. Here is how you can test yours to see if they dissolve: Look for the United States Pharmacopeia (USP) seal of approval on your vitamin, which means it meets dissolution standards and do this at-home test: Put your vitamin in a half cup of vinegar and stir gently every five minutes or so. Within 20-30 minutes, it should be either dissolved or at least separated into tiny particles. If it doesn’t dissolve, then it is a waste of money and you aren’t getting the benefits.

Dr. Ray Strand recommends that women forgo the specific prenatal vitamin as they are usually nothing more than a low quality multivitamin with extra folic acid. Instead he puts his patients on a high quality pharmaceutical grade with optimal levels of all nutrients.

Multivitamins May Lower Heart Disease Death Risk

At a Glance

A team of researchers from the University of Washington report that daily use of multivitamins over a 10-year period may reduce the risk of death from heart disease by 16%.

Read more about this research below.

Researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center at the University of Washington recently analyzed the use of multivitamin supplements, vitamin C, and vitamin E over a ten year period. Correlations between 5-year total mortality and death from cancer or cardiovascular disease (CVD) were assessed.

Data from 77,719 Washington residents aged 50 to 76 were obtained by questionnaire. A series of analyses showed that use of multivitamins was associated with a 16% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease (95% CI: 0.01-0.3). Intakes of vitamin E over 215 milligrams per day over the course of ten years were also associated with a 28% reduction in the risk of death from CVD (95% CI: 0.12-0.31).

Multivitamin use alone was not associated with a decreased risk of total mortality, but both vitamin C and E were associated with decreases in risk of total mortality. Similarly, vitamin C did not correlate with a reduced risk of death from CVD while both multivitamins and vitamin E did.
Am J Epidemiol 2009 Aug 15;170(4):472-83

Report warns of problems with multivitamins – But mine were approved!

Below is a report from Reuters about the sad state of many multivitamins on the market. Below the Reuters report is a press release from Usana which states that Usana’s products were approved by ConsumerLabs.com

Reuters Thu Apr 9, 10:54 am ET

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – More than 30 percent of multivitamins tested recently by ConsumerLab.com contained significantly more or less of an ingredient than claimed, or were contaminated with lead, the company reports.
ConsumerLab.com, based in White Plains, New York, is privately held and provides consumer information and independent evaluations of products that affect health and nutrition. According to the company, it is neither owned by nor has a financial interest in any companies that make, distribute or sell consumer products.
Several multivitamin products tested, including three for children, exceeded tolerable upper limits established by the Institute of Medicine for ingredients such as vitamin A, folic acid, niacin and zinc, according to the report posted on www.ConsumerLab.com.
For example, the Institute of Medicine sets a recommended daily allowance (RDA) of 1,300 international units (IU) of vitamin A for children ages 4 to 8 years and an upper tolerable limit of 3,000 IU. However, one multivitamin tested provided 5,000 IU of vitamin A.
In the short term, too much vitamin A may cause nausea and blurred vision, and, in the long-term, may lead to bone softening and liver problems.
Upper tolerable limits for niacin and zinc were also exceeded by some of the supplements for young children tested. Excess niacin may cause skin tingling and flushing and high levels of zinc may cause immune deficiency and anemia.
Tests turned up problems with some men’s multivitamin products as well. Two of three men’s multivitamins failed to pass testing. One contained too much folic acid, which may increase the risk of prostate cancer, while another was contaminated with lead.
Among four women‘s multivitamins tested, one provided only 66 percent of its claimed vitamin A; one of five seniors’ multivitamins selected contained only 44 percent of its vitamin A; and among three prenatal vitamins, one was short on vitamin
A.
Two out of five general multivitamins were short on ingredients: one provided only 50 percent of its claimed folic acid and the other was missing 30 percent of its calcium.
A vitamin water tested by ConsumerLab.com had 15 times its stated amount of folic acid, so drinking one bottle would exceed the tolerable limit for adults; less than half a bottle would put children over the limit, the company warns on its website.
—————————————————–
SALT LAKE CITY – April 1, 2009 – USANA Health Sciences, Inc. (NASDAQ: USNA) announced today that its USANA Essentials™ Chelated Mineral and Mega Antioxidant have been evaluated and approved by ConsumerLab.com, LLC. A leading provider of independent product test results and information, ConsumerLab.com helps consumers and healthcare professionals evaluate health and wellness products.

In a recent study, ConsumerLab.com evaluated USANA’s Chelated Mineral and Mega Antioxidant, as well as multivitamin products from various nutritional supplement manufacturers to determine whether they contained the amounts of the compounds as is stated on their labels. Upon completion, ConsumerLab.com announced that both of USANA’s Essentials met their label claims. The review can be found on the company’s Web site at www.consumerlab.com.

“Receiving approval from ConsumerLab.com yet again illustrates USANA’s commitment to quality and safety,” said USANA Executive Vice President of Research & Development Tim Wood. “A reputable organization, ConsumerLab.com provides consumers with trusted research to make safe decisions. USANA is proud to have the Essentials approved and is proud to be providing people with nutritionals they can trust.”

According to its Web site, ConsumerLab.com receives more than 3 million visits per year. Since the organization’s inception in 1999, ConsumerLab.com has tested more than 2,100 products, representing hundreds of different brands and nearly every type of popular supplement.

The Truth about a recent study about MultiVitamins and Cancer & Heart Disease

by Joan E. Baumann, NutriSeach
MULTIVITAMINS CONSIDERED USELESS IN PREVENTION OF CANCER OR HEART DISEASE
Dramatic, misleading headlines such as the one above are so frequently picked up and run by the press.
I decided to check out the source in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

At the bottom of the abstract there was a clinical trials Identifier Number: Trial Registration Number NCT0000611.

The identifying number gave a clearer picture of the criteria. Here is what the Government Trials website stated as to eligibility:
Eligibility

Ages Eligible for Study: 50 Years to 79 Years

Genders Eligible for Study: Female

Accepts Healthy Volunteers: No

Criteria

Postmenopausal women ages 50 to 79.

The Trial Criteria allowed for Postmenopausal Women Ages 50 – 79 BUT excluded healthy volunteers! http://www.clinicaltrials.gov/show/NCT00000611/

The women were asked if they took multivitamins, and a detailed record of their vitamin of choice was kept. The Data regarding their vitamin use was accepted even if they took their multivitamin as infrequently as once a week!

SomeBIG IFSbecame apparent: if they took one of the heavier advertised brands, with their minimal amounts of basic nutrients,if their vitamin contained nutrients that were not optimal in quality, such as synthetic vitamin E instead of the natural form,if it contained very low levels of vitamin C,if it did not include nutrients such as inositol, choline, alpha lipoic acid, quercetin, flavonoids, n-acetyl L-cysteine, coenzymeQ10, beta-carotene instead of vitamin A, optimal levels of Folic Acid ……..then one would expect the outcome the study announced. Too many IFS! There was no apparent baseline for either levels or quality of nutrients.
Daniel Fabricant, Ph.D., vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs for the Natural Products Association, a non-profit organization, had a few interesting comments on the study.
Fabricant said it is “unprincipled” that the authors arbitrarily lumped supplement types into generalized categories that do not represent nutrient intake accurately. And when coupled with the fact that nutrient intake through the diet was not accounted for, Fabricant explained, the study has no means of establishing a baseline for which to draw any comparisons or eliminate bias.

He further stated: “ Taken as whole, the research on dietary supplements in the prevention of chronic diseases, is strong and consistent. To suggest that taking vitamins and minerals with a demonstrated health benefit is unnecessary sends the wrong public health message.”

There are literally thousands of research studies which have shown the benefits of many nutrients, from food and/or supplements. To ignore such a large body of research and depend solely upon our food supply to provide the level of nutrition that can keep us healthy makes absolutely no sense.

We can trust in the science and integrity of a company like Usana; the longer we maintain the health of our cells on a regular basis, the greater the benefit as we age.

In health,

Joan E. Baumann

Thank you Joan for this excellent replay to a headline which received too much press. We must realize that there are many companies who want to keep these sorts of headlines in front of the public. There are thousands of medical studies which show that optimal levels of high quality nutritional supplements can have a tremendous impact on preventing or reversing almost every degenerative disease. If this were brought to the public’s attention it could cost big pharmaceutical companies billions and billions of dollars. Yet headlines such as this help insure big pharma’s monoply of our medical system.
NutriSearch has evaluated over 1,500 different multivitamins available in the US and Canada. Usana Health Sciences has received their top rating for for the past 9 years.