I saw an interesting piece over at ABC News. It’s not interesting because of the topic (“which vitamins are helpful, which are harmful”) but because media sources continue to offer the same retread of outdated vitamin lore as if it were breaking scientific information. I find it interesting that no one seems to have caught on – or, at least, no one is calling news sources on it.
So let’s call them on it. You can check the article out (clickativity) for yourself, but essentially, the retread trucks out the same old three concerns:
1 – Vitamin E might hurt your heart
2 – Beta carotene/vitamin A can be harmful in excessive amounts if you smoke
3 – Too much calcium might cause kidney stones
The article also states that some vitamins may be beneficial while others may not be (really?).
To be fair, it’s a very complex issue, and science is always revealing new information. Hey, that’s a good thing. It’s really the beauty of science: think how much more we know now than even a decade ago about issues like aging, cancer and nutrition.
Part of the problem with these oft-sensationalized three topics is that for every study which supposedly points to a health danger, there are plenty (if not hundreds) of studies which show no negative effect whatsoever. The point is, don’t just take someone’s word for it. I think the internet is one of the best things to ever happen for humans when it comes to health. It’s instant democratic participation in health information – makes it a lot harder for drug companies and vitamin manufacturers to be misleading, doesn’t it? That’s something we’ve all benefited from tremendously.
Let’s take a look at the three supplements in this “news” article (actually, they are the three most popularly touted as being harmful, and have been for years). Of course, it’s an ongoing issue we’ll get in-depth with here, but consider:
Vitamin E is “bad” for your heart?
This study, which came out about two years ago, sent shockwaves around the world and made major headlines. It was also almost immediately criticized, with good reason. But, of course, that part didn’t make headlines. The study, which was not really a study at all – just a meta-review of several other poorly-conducted studies – found that high doses of vitamin E could be harmful to the heart. The funny, or perhaps just annoying, thing is that we’ve known for years that a certain type of vitamin E (yes, the one reviewed in the big headliner just mentioned) is actually a pro-oxidant and can be harmful. When d-alpha tocopherol (the most common form of supplemental E, by the way) gives up an electron, it becomes a pro-oxidant. I don’t think anyone should take this type of E, and sadly, it’s the most prevalent vitamin E supplement sold.
The critical missing information is that E is actually a spectrum vitamin, just like B. There are eight “E’s” and all are necessary to work properly and synergistically in the body. One wouldn’t only take B12 or B6; we know that all B vitamins are needed. E is the same.
Furthermore, this particular meta-analysis (which, as noted in today’s article, still gets bandied about) focused on studies of very sick, often terminally ill, people. Anyone who is terminally ill or suffering from something like heart disease will of course be courting disaster by taking the d-alpha form of E. They’re actually exacerbating the problem – yikes!
However, as sensational media stories go, what we hear is “Vitamin E is bad for you!” Far from it.
Beta Carotene Kills?
As for beta carotene, the situation is similar. Did you know there are over 500 carotenes? They work synergistically (meaning, taken together, they have exactly the good effect they should have and can be properly absorbed and utilized by the body). But giving one type of beta carotene, to a smoker, is asking for a bad result.
Calcium Causes Kidney Stones?
Finally, kidney stones from calcium has more to do with poor diet and the formation of oxalic acid than from actual calcium. One study has shown that there are fewer stones in those supplementing with calcium than those who do not. And compelling, recent evidence suggests that magnesium reduces kidney stone risk. Moreover, calcium is absorbed better when taken with magnesium – again, it’s that synergistic effect. Take just one thing, or the wrong thing, and you upset the body’s biological balance.
(That’s just great, Mark, I can hear you saying. So what do I take? I recommend you check out my multivitamin if you’re interested in learning more.)
Between bird flu, Rhode Island school closures, conjoined children, the new WHO director, an ethical debate about a disabled daughter, and the ruckus over human-animal DNA splicing, it’s been quite a controversial and bizarre week in the world of science and health.
Frankly, I’ll leave these stories to Google and all the pundits chomping at the 5 o’clock Friday bit. If you’re looking for a little bit of a breather from all this, the Bees have gone hunting for the latest study findings in the field of health, and here’s the best of the catch:
1 – My favorite kind of study: one that’s randomized, placebo-controlled, and long-term (in this case, nearly 7 years!). The findings reveal that supplementing with zinc helps fight aging and age-related diseases, macular degeneration, and oxidation. It’s one of the better-designed studies I’ve seen on zinc. Although, quick note – long-term supplementation with zinc needs to be kept at a fairly low dosage and quality source such as found here. Here is the American Journal of Ophthalmology Clickativity for those who want the nitty-gritty.
2 – A researcher named Bruce. Now here’s a guy I like. He writes a terrific essay on the need for particular nutrients to mitigate certain effects of aging, cancer risk, and cellular function, and is upfront about his conflict of interest (he’s part of a scientific advisory board involved in the licensing of a supplement that supports mitochondria). Nevertheless, he doesn’t profit, his findings are spot-on, and I appreciate the academic honesty. That’s more than can be said for a lot of conflicts of interest in the medical industry that get hushed.
We’ll be getting into ATP, stress, oxidation and mitochondria in the future to help you understand why our bodies age and weaken the way they do, and what can be done about it (first tip: take a potent multivitamin with antioxidants, and lay off the sugar). But Bruce’s summary is worth perusing for a quick minute. The more you can do to stop oxidation at the cellular level, the better your health will be in myriad ways: wrinkling and aging, energy, immunity, cognition, disease prevention, liver function, nervous system function, cardiovascular health, and so on. There is a common component to many diseases, illnesses and dysfunctions of the body – it’s cell damage.
3 – Exercise improves life in your golden years. A study from the Journal of Gerontology highlights the critical need for folks over 60 to continue building their strength through exercise. Aging is essentially a process of tissue wasting away – hair, organs, vital fats, muscle and bone tissue, and even brain tissue. Exercise, particularly strength training, offsets this process to the extent that is possible. Living long is great – but I’m interested in living well, too. I’m sure you are as well. Exercise later in life is also critical for maintaining confidence, emotional happiness, and a sense of security – all important things for everybody but especially seniors. Medline Plus, a public service resource, summarizes the study nicely and offers some fitness tips. It also stresses the importance of a structured workout regimen: we humans do thrive on just a little bit of routine.
Worker Bees’ Daily Bites
What’s up, Apples? All kinds of great health news for you today. Here’s the latest you’ll want to click:
1) Fine…But It’s Still a Frankenfat
So, we don’t really have a comment on this. What goes on with this line of reasoning? Who thinks this stuff up? “Take bad fake fat. Fake it some more so it has some good in it. But it’s still bad fat. Sort of.” Huh? Here’s an idea: stop playing God with food! Oh yeah. Sorry. We promised no comment. People may never stop eating potato chips; should scientists just try to make them slightly less terrible for you? We just don’t believe this is the best humans are capable of. We’re only bees, of course…
2) Never Too Late to Feel Great with Folate
After it became common knowledge that women needs lots of folate to prevent birth defects, things started to improve. For a while. The government has conducted two back-to-back long-term studies to see if women are getting enough folate.
Surprisingly, levels are way back down again despite all the folic flapping. The researchers think it’s a combination of obesity rates increasing and supplementation rates decreasing. The moral? Stay lean, eat greens, and take a multivitamin, for goodness’ sake. (If for no other reason than to make us quit with the folate rhymes!)
3) We Knew It!
This just in: soap and water are just as good at removing germs as all those fancy-schmancy hand sanitizers. Repeat: soap and water are just as good. Hand sanitizers are the bottled water of the germ-conscious set.
Here are the facts for all you beloved germophobes:
- Alcohol-based sanitizers do a good job of killing bacteria IF you use a lot of the goop. Most people only use a little squirt and that’s not really enough. Also, these hand sanitizers kill good bacteria along with the bad. We would die without good bacteria, so it’s something to think about. Besides, remember that most of the really nasty stuff is viral, not bacterial (flu, colds, HIV, meningitis, tuberculosis, etc.).
- Which brings us to the next fact: while sanitizers will not always kill viruses, hand-washing will. That’s because soap isn’t a killer – soap is just a slimeball (literally). Soap helps bacteria and viruses slide right off your hands, which is why you need to “soap up” for at least 10 rigorous seconds before rinsing. Soap doesn’t kill, it just gives germs the slip.
More clickativity from around the web:
Bad Days Continue for Big Pharma: 8,000 people aren’t wrong.
Worker Bees’ Daily Bites
1) Wash Those Hands, Honey!
Bird flu and mad cow may be glamorously scary, but what should be making more headlines is the newest, ugliest superbug crawling around gyms, daycares and door handles. Fortunately, it’s easy to stop if you wash your hands after hanging around public places. Clickativity.
2) What’s that? You Frolicked in Acid?
Speak up, would ya! Folic acid is good for your ears. We’re impressed with this nice little study, which was long-term, placebo-controlled, and looked at both men and women. Very well done, Annals, very well done. And well done is actually quite…rare. (Come on, you know you’re smiling.)
Check out a great way to get folic acid here.
3) Harvard Doesn’t Like Uncle Sam’s Food Pyramid, Either
Harvard has released an alternative food pyramid and nutrition guide. It’s a really great way to spend 16 bucks because, although the US pyramid is both free and pretty, the Harvard version flat-out rocks. Harvard oh-so-politely counters the so-called “balanced diet” approach as being totally meaningless (which it is). Seriously, are things like “try to eat more whole grains” and “avoid fat” the best recommendations our government can come up with? Evidently so. (Although the FDA does have that nifty new Labelman tutorial online to help you understand nutrition labels and feel like a five-year-old simultaneously.)
Instead, with the Harvard guide, specific foods are recommended. How cool is that? Things like good fats (because they lower bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol), veggies rich in antioxidants (because they may prevent cancer and they fight inflammation and stress), and lots of lean protein. Yum!
In fact, Harvard makes a very convincing case that a high-protein diet is not only safe for the cardiovascular-concerned crowd, but that sensible high-protein diets (no baconfests, people) are actually better for the heart than bran muffins and bread machines. Which is what Mark has been espousing all along – pretty interesting stuff!
We really recommend purchasing the guide if you can. Kudos to Harvard for having the gumption to address real nutrition with real science and real recommendations. Although, colorful stripes are fun. We’re very impressed with the FDA for staying inside the lines so well.
EVERYTHING YOU EVER WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT: Arabinogalactans
WHAT IT IS: Arabinogalactans are found in many foods and plant fibers, including garlic, leeks, carrots, radishes, pears, tomatoes, wheat, red wine, coconut, curcumin (found in curry seasoning), echinacea, and some tree barks. The best source for arabinogalactans is the larch tree. Of course, the Master Formula contains plenty of this beneficial extract, so you won’t have to visit your local forest for a larch bark snack.
WHAT IT DOES: We’ve all heard how echinacea, certain vegetables, garlic and onions can help fight infections and improve the strength of the immune system. Here’s why: arabinogalactans. All of these foods and herbs contain this potent little group of polysaccharides, and researchers think this is why such foods and herbs as garlic and echinacea are famous for boosting the immune system.
STUDIES SHOW: Arabinogalactans, scientifically speaking, are polysaccharides. They are gum sugars found in plant cell walls. But there’s nothing sweet about them: these powerful compounds can stimulate killer cells, interleukins, and tumer necrosis factor. These factors are involved in maintaining the health of the immune system. Scientists have found that arabinogalactans can help reduce length and severity of colds and infections. Arabinogalactans may also be helpful in fighting parasites.
WHY WE LIKE IT: In addition to offering immune system support, arabinogalactins appear to promote healthy gut bacteria. This is critical for maintaining a strong immune system and reducing those fattening gut bugs we like to talk about here on the MDA.
© 2013 Mark's Daily Apple | Design By The Blog Studio