Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.

Mark's Daily Apple

8 Jan

Vitaminute

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topic (“which vitamins are helpful, which are harmful”) but because media sources continue to offer the same retread of outdated vitamin lore as if it were breaking scientific information.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.)

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8 Jan

A Monday Moment

Maybe it’s only Monday morning traffic, but I’m noticing people become just a little more aggressive behind the shield of their cars. It’s as if driving in a car grants us sudden power and anonymity – and a license to be rude. Road rage concerns me, not only because of the safety issues, but because it’s a sign to me that people aren’t venting their bottled-up anger properly. It’s not a good thing when anger is the instinctive reaction as soon as there’s no perceived threat or social expectation.

My thought? It’s just so much easier to let things go. It really does feel better to forgive, shrug it off, and laugh. Cars don’t make us anonymous – just the opposite – they make our true character transparent. Do your part to help people simmer down when they’re on the road – let’s set an example. Feeling generosity to others is an important part of being healthy. (And so is venting frustration properly – exercise, meditation, prayer, talking with friends, and “chill out” time are all ways to stay emotionally healthy.)

8 Jan

Mark’s Weekly Health Challenge

Mark’s Weekly Health Challenge to you:

Every day this week, either get yourself outside or to the gym. No excuses (sky falling? Okay). Working out every day, all the time, isn’t totally necessary, but it certainly is good for you – and you’ll feel amazing come the weekend. Commit to at least 30 minutes every day this week.

5 Jan

Exercise Motivation That Works

There’s a lot of advice about exercise floating around out there. Everyone knows they need to work out, yet most of us don’t (well, everyone except you, dear Apples – right?). The big problem is motivation.

Let’s face it: we just don’t feel like it.

- We know we need to.

- Once we get going, we usually like it (or at least, it’s not a totally miserable experience).
- We always feel better afterwards.

- We sleep better that night.

- We feel really confident and light-hearted for the rest of the day.

- We love that good soreness the next morning.

And yet…we still refuse to exercise habitually.

Things that are officially easier than forming an exercise habit:

- House-training a puppy.

- Cleaning the outside of the windows on the second floor. With a broken squeegee.

- Spending the weekend with your mother-in-law. Alone. In a motel.

- Changing a flat tire in your best suit.

- Spreading cold butter on bread.

- Getting a real person when you call customer service.

- Peace in the Middle East.

If you aren’t going to exercise, you aren’t going to exercise – end of story. If you really want to get fit this year, or simply fitter, there’s one surefire way to do it: stop thinking about it and don’t wait until you feel like it. Nike is right: just do it. A lot of exercise advice focuses on convincing you that you need to work out. But please, you’re smart – you already know that much. And you know exercise is good for you. So, if you’re serious about finding motivation, here are 5 guaranteed motivation tips:

1. Click here to see what will happen to you if you do not work out.

2. Click here to see what can happen to you if you do work out.

3. Instead of swearing you’ll exercise or promising to stick to a workout regimen, commit to health the easy way: just commit to putting on your sneakers. Really and truly, that is 90% of the battle. Don’t think about working out; only think about putting on your shoes. Do that, and it’s instantly easier to start the workout. Even if you only do 10 minutes, at least you did something! We promise this works. So commit to shoes.

4. Ask us for encouragement. We are completely wrapped up in the thought of helping you get fit and healthy this year!

5. Don’t overestimate yourself. People set hugely unrealistic goals. We think we could all look like Cindy Crawford if we felt like it. We work out a few times, nothing happens, and…we’re back to lifestyle circa 2006. If you’re not really habituated to working out, it is harder than you think. That’s okay. It’s actually healthy to accept that. Set smaller, more realistic goals. And we mean small. 10 sit-ups a day. 5 push-ups. A jog to the end of the block and back. A walk to the store. Get used to simply moving every day – and do this for at least a few weeks before you try anything new.

It’s kind of annoying to start slow and small, because we naturally want big results and we naturally overestimate our abilities and commitment. Hey, holding too much stock in our capabilities is a huge blessing for the most part – it’s actually built into our DNA! But be aware of this tendency. You really do need to be gentle and patient with yourself. You really do need to go slow. And you really will get better results if you start small.

5 Jan

The Most Expensive Weight-Loss Claim Ever?

It’s gonna cost these weight-loss hucksters upwards of $25 million for lying. Thanks to Healthbolt.net for the heads up. Here’s the original story, too.

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