Dear Mark: Gummy Vitamins, Heirloom Rice, and Regular Checkups

Gummy VitaminsFor this week’s edition of Dear Mark, I’ve got three of your questions and three of my answers. First up, I discuss the sugar content of gummy vitamins. Is it a problem for growing kids? Next, find out my take on heirloom rice, including whether it’s worth all the work required trying to get around the antinutrients. I also get into the somewhat counterintuitive role of antioxidants after exercise. Last, I give my opinion on the importance (or lack thereof) of getting regular checkups or physicals at the doctor just… well, because.

Let’s go:

Hi Mark!

I am the mother of two amazing kids (4 & 3), and although we eat well I do like to give them a daily multi to cover our bases. We have been giving them Gummi Vitamins due to the convenience and “kid-friendliness” factor, but my husband recently looked at the sugar content (3g in the multi and 3g in the fish oil) and realized that for their body size it was the equivalent of us eating 6 sugar packets first thing in the morning! Can you and the worker bees recommend a child multi and fish oil that has a LOT less sugar but that they will still be willing to take?

Thanks in advance from the next generation of Grok 😉


True, they are small, but according to official recommendations, active four year olds need between 1,600 and 2,000 calories a day and active three year olds need around 1,400. Six grams of sugar is 23 calories, or between 1-2% of calories (depending on age and calorie intake). That’s really nothing to worry about. Also, they aren’t just maintaining their body mass (or trying to actively lose some of it) like adults. They’re actually building new tissue, growing bones and teeth and brain. That burns through – and requires – a ton of calories.

Given the fairly consistent association between artificial sweetener intake and obesity in kids (which of course does not establish causation), I’d be wary of replacing the sugary vitamins with sucralosey vitamins.

Your best bet is to just focus on getting nutrients via food. At the very least, switch out the gummy fish oil for a DHA-enriched egg yolk or two. I’ll sometimes buy a brand from Whole Foods that gives you 150 mg DHA in each egg yolk, achieved by feeding the hens fish. That’s way better than most gummy fish oils, which only give about 50 mg of DHA per serving.

Don’t worry about the few grams of sugar if you give them the vitamins, though!

I don’t eat rice often (typically a bit when I go out for sushi), but I’ve been considering experimenting with it a bit as an occasional post work out carb source, to see how it effects me. I’ve been hearing recently about different heirloom rices, black, red, I think I saw something about a pink and a green. Most of what I’ve read has been talking about them having more nutrients, and antioxidants such as anthocyanin, compared to white or brown rice. I know the anti-nutrients in brown rice are in the germ, and the bran gets removed when producing white rice. From what I understand the heirloom rices retain the germ and the bran, but I haven’t been able to find anything one way or the other about anti-nutrients in any of these heirloom rices. I’m trying to find out if I should just experiment with white rice, or if these heirloom varieties could be worth looking into.


The colored heirloom rice varieties are pretty interesting. They’re certainly dense with antioxidant activity, mostly due to the anthocyanins (as you mention).

Unfortunately, if you want the color and the antioxidants, you need to eat the bran. That’s where everything is located, including antinutrients like phytic acid, which binds to many of the minerals. Even though heirloom rice is rich in minerals like magnesium and manganese, it’s unclear how much is actually available. If you soak and ferment your heirloom rice, you can eliminate the vast majority of the phytate, but that’s another step to follow. Luckily, most rice lectins are deactivated by cooking above 100 ºC or 212 ºF, so those shouldn’t be too big an issue. The rice’s trypsin inhibitor (the compound that can impair protein digested with the rice meal) is also deactivated by cooking (or removing the bran).

I’m just not sure the heirloom rices are worth the trouble of soaking and fermenting. You can certainly try it, but blueberries, cherries, and purple sweet potatoes require no special preparation and should cover you nicely on the anthocyanin front.

Besides, I wouldn’t worry too much about getting a big dose of anthocyanins immediately post-workout. I might even caution against getting a big dose of post-workout anthocyanins. There’s actually evidence that post-workout anthocyanins can impair the exercise effect. Sound weird? I know, I know. Anthocyanins and other antioxidant plant compounds are supposed to be good for you by reducing inflammation. What could be wrong with that?

Well, if you recall from the previous post on exercise and inflammation, a big part of the training process is inflammation. Exercise is a stressor that, like other stressors, increases inflammation in our tissues. It’s our body’s response to that inflammatory insult that explains the benefits of exercise. Lift weights heavy enough to damage the muscles and the muscles get stronger in order to handle the next bout. Run long enough to stress your cardiovascular system and your cardiovascular fitness improves so the next time you run isn’t such a stressor. Throwing in a big dose of antioxidants immediately after the workout blunts the inflammation and, thus, perhaps the beneficial response by our body to the exercise.

Studies have found that antioxidants in general taken after exercise can blunt the benefits of exercise. It remains to be seen whether large doses of anthocyanins (or blueberries, black rice, or cherries) have similar effects, but it’s possible:

  • In one study, cherry juice reduced the muscle damage after strength training and sped-up the recovery of strength. Two groups performed as many knee extensions as they could. 48 hours after the initial strength training, the group drinking cherry juice had recovered almost 93% of baseline strength and the control group had recovered just 88.5%. This sounds fantastic on the surface, but these were clearly truncated gains. Neither group was allowed to fully recover and, since the cherry juice attenuated muscle damage, the cherry group had less damage from which to recover. Generally, the greater the muscle damage, the greater the potential for strength gains – provided you give yourself enough recovery time. With sufficient recovery time, the control group might have ended up even stronger.
  • Another study found that acute ingestion of 375 grams of blueberries an hour before a bout of distance running reduced oxidative stress and increased the amount of anti-inflammatory cytokines in circulation.

Don’t go out of your way to avoid them, of course. A cup of blueberries won’t nullify the deadlifts you just did. Just don’t drink a quart of cherry juice followed by an intramuscular injection of purple sweet potato extract or you might shortchange your results.

If it’s easy, absorbable glucose you’re after, just go for the white rice. Make it more nutritious by cooking it in bone broth and a pat of grass-fed butter or red palm oil. Restore some of the lost minerals by adding a few splashes of trace mineral drops to the cooking liquid. Save the focus on anthocyanins and other phytonutrients for your regular meals.


How do you feel about getting regular doctor checkups/physicals, especially considering that most of us only have access to CW-minded physicians due to insurance?

On a related note, I tend to overanalyze numbers and feel like I’d be more consistent in my Primal lifestyle if I can avoid the knee-jerk reactions that come with tracking things like blood test results, body fat, and even weight (things that, for the most part, Grok did not have access to). Is ignorance of these markers indeed bliss for my situation, or is it important for me to maintain awareness?



It’s often said that prevention is the best medicine, with the implication being that one must regularly present himself to a licensed medical professional for examination if he is to prevent illnesses from occurring. I agree with the saying, but not with the common interpretation. The best way to prevent illness is to take a proactive role in your own health by eating well, staying active, performing vigorous exercise from time to time, lifting heavy things, getting adequate sunlight, doing things that you love, etc. – not by getting poked and prodded. Poking and prodding can be helpful, I suppose, if you’re not working from a healthy foundation.

In my personal opinion, which by the way is not medical advice, a healthy, lean, mobile, happy, content person does not need regular yearly checkups. There’s even a study from a couple years ago that found routine checkups provide no health benefits. Thus, I’m not big on going to the doctor unless I need to, like if I want to get a spot on my arm checked out.

Go to the doctor if something’s ailing you, if something hurts, or if you want to know your cholesterol levels or get some other lab number tested. Don’t fear the doctor if you need to go – they are excellent “mechanics” when something goes wrong – but don’t feel you need to go just because you’re alive and some horrible malady could be brewing inside you.

That’s it for today, folks. Thanks for reading!

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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