No “Bones” About It…

Essential Fatty Acids and BonesEssential Fatty Acids may be a key ingredient in supporting bone health.

Essential fatty acids (EFAs) do not come to mind as the first thought in searching for nutritional answers regarding bone health.  “Recent evidence-based research, however, supports intervention with adequate amounts of specific nutrients including vitamin D, strontium, vitamin K, and essential fatty acids in the prevention and primary management of osteoporosis” (Genius, Clin Nutr. 2007).  Osteoporosis has become an epidemic in the Western World in recent years.  How do EFAs fit into this problem that plagues us especially as we get older?

When we think about osteoperosis, we think calcium.  Calcium and bone go together like salt and pepper.  Add in some vitamin D and that’s about it.  However, looking into it deeper we came up with a number of studies that say that EFAs should be right up front and strongly considered in our first line of bone defense.

Essential fatty acids are necessary to human survival, and are called essential because they must come from the diet; they cannot be made by the body.  The omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are the best known.  Learning that they are also important for bone health is something we need to know.

In vivo studies (that means in a living animal) have shown that supplementation with long chain n-6 poly-unsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) in rats causes increases in intestinal Calcium absorption (Haag 2001).  Haag and his colleagues reported a higher total calcium balance and bone calcium content just by adding in either sunflower or safflower oil in their diet.

In another study pregnant female rats were made diabetic. They use a chemical called streptozotocin to duplicate the disorder in the animals.  They were then fed evening primrose oil (GLA) at 500 mg/kg/d throughout their pregnancy and found an almost complete restoration of bone ossification (process of laying down new bone) occurred just by adding in the primrose oils (Braddock, Pediatr Res. 2002).

Claassen et al, Prostaglandins 1995, found that the supplementation of essential fatty acids (EFAs) leads to increased intestinal calcium absorption and calcium balance. The main dietary EFAs they used were linoleic acid (LA) from sunflower oil and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) from flax seed oil.  They were administered in a ratio of 3:1 which is very close to our 4:1 BodyBio Balanced oil.  The calcium balance (mg/24 h) and bone calcium (mg/g bone ash) increased significantly in the group that were on the EFAs as compared to the animals that were not given the oils.

Schlemmer et al, Prostaglandins 1999, found that if you make animal’s essential fatty acid deficient they flat out develop osteoporosis.  He then added in evening primrose oil (GLA) and completely reversed the loss of bone and reported positive effects on bone metabolism in both the growing male and female rat.

It certainly goes against what you might think.  Oils are thin, some of them even squishy, while bone is completely hard as a rock.  But leaning on our visual senses doesn’t work with body chemistry, obviously.

Bone remodeling is a life-long process where mature bone tissue is removed from the skeleton and is called resorption, while new bone tissue is formed.  It’s a process called ossification or new bone formation. These processes go on all the time and are managed by special cells that crawl along our bones and chew up excess bone growth, osteoclast.  There is another cell osteoblast, that busily does the opposite, laying down new growth where it’s needed.

In the first year of life, almost 100% of the skeleton is replaced.  In adults, remodeling proceeds at about 10% per year (Wheeless).  That means that in a span of 10 years our skeleton is brand new,  If the process is continuous those cells that do the work must be directly influenced by essential fatty acids, and if EFAs are needed to get the job done, well…


Genuis SJ, Schwalfenberg GK. Picking a bone with contemporary osteoporosis management: Nutrient strategies to enhance skeletal integrity. Clin Nutr. 2007 Apr;26(2):193-207

Haag M, Kearns SD, Magada ON, Mphata PR, Claassen N, Kruger MC. Effect of arachidonic acid on duodenal enterocyte ATPases. Prostaglandins Other Lipid Mediat. 2001 Aug;66(1):53-63

Braddock R, Siman CM, Hamilton K, Garland HO, Sibley CPGamma-linoleic acid and ascorbate improves skeletal ossification in offspring of diabetic rats. Pediatr Res. 2002 May;51(5):647-52.

Claassen N, Coetzer H, Steinmann CM, Kruger MC. The effect of different n-6/n-3 essential fatty acid ratios on calcium balance and bone in rats. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 1995 Jul;53(1):13-9.

Schlemmer CK, Coetzer H, Claassen N, Kruger MC. Oestrogen and essential fatty acid supplementation corrects bone loss due to ovariectomy in the female Sprague Dawley rat. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 1999 Dec;61(6):381-90

Wheeless Textbook of Orthopedics, Clifford R. Wheeless, III, MD.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.
These products are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease.

Aging and The Brain

coconut oil, fats oils, essential fatty acids

Our brains are 60% fat. In light of what we know of brain function and the essential fatty acids that are responsible, the term “fat-head” could now be a complement. Since our brains are in charge and require the right fats to run our thinking machinery, our first priority is to make sure we add the right ones into our diet, the omega 6s and omega 3s. They are essential and get the job done. First – let’s review some of the basics.

Fats and oils can be divided into two densities and two levels. The densities are not unlike the SAE oils, the Society of Automotive Engineers who organize the oils for our autos. But it is better to skip the details at the moment and divide them in two categories “thick” and “thin”. Fats are the thick ones and oils are thin, actually runny. It’s quite good to divide them in this simplistic way. The confusion about what we eventually eat is all over the lot and besides, our cells and membranes organize fats and oils as partners with each having a precise role. The membrane does not work without both, thick and thin, sluggish and active. We can begin with the ones we use in our kitchens because they wind up in our metabolism whether we like it or not.

You can think of the thick ones as butter or lard. We tend to look down on lard as being out of date. We regard it as a thing of the past. Our grandparents and great grandparents certainly didn’t think so. As cooking oil, lard has been with us for some time. It’s been a staple for centuries, probably hundreds of centuries, and we’ve survived and even flourished. It’s part of our evolutionary history. Those thick heavy oils were skimmed off the top of stews and saved, collected from roasts of pork, lamb, goose or turkey. It was regarded as valuable stuff. Before the light bulb, making candles was a basic part of life so the rendering of fat in the kitchen was universal. The plain fact is that lard is OK for cooking. However, just reminiscing, not pushing lard today.

Butter and olive oil are both excellent cooking oils, however, coconut is also marvelous for cooking. It’s not exactly a thick fat, for as you know, it quickly gets thin as the temperature rises. Castillo et al 1999, reports that “Supplementation of coconut oil produced a significant hypercholesterolemia after 7 days of treatment. However, supplementation of menhaden oil induced a significant decrease in total cholesterol after only 2 weeks of treatment”. The raising of cholesterol may sound sacrilegious; however, notwithstanding the loud din of media anti-cholesterol noise, there are those who have difficulty in doing just that – raising cholesterol. Cholesterol is an important fat for our cell membranes; it metabolizes up to our gonadal hormones — think sex. No necessity in elaborating on that subject. It’s also a precursor for our adrenal hormones, which produce our life saving impulses for fight or flight, and bile acids which shepherd the fats and oils around in the blood stream. Without further ado — cholesterol is necessary.

Castillo creates an interesting picture of coconut oil, or butter, as you prefer, and the essential oils that are part of our diet. By itself, coconut can raise cholesterol, but by introducing menhaden oil, it just as quickly reverses and lowers it. This feature of menhaden oil, basically an omega 3 essential fatty acid (EFAs), to lower cholesterol, is also duplicated with the omega 6 EFAs, and there is abundant research that corroborates it. We can regard all of the omega 6s and 3s as “thin oils” and cholesterol, when grouped together as a very “thick fat”.

The lesson here is more than casual. We need the thick ones and we desperately need the thin ones. The thin ones keep the thick ones from collecting to the degree where we tend to get into trouble that comes with aging, such as atherosclerosis, heart disease. In just these two words, thick and thin, we have covered half of all Fatty Acid biochemistry in human metabolism. But it may be just too simple to be looked at with the respect that it deserves. You may spend a third of your life getting a medical degree and half again practicing medicine, but if you do not see this simple relationship you will also retire as a failure from your chosen field of medicine.

Coconut used to be the preferred oil for making popcorn, but ADM and the other large oil producers chased it out of the movies over 30 years ago. It’s a shame we lost it. It was much healthier eating coconut oil than what is currently in use today. Most of the oils used for popcorn and fries are PUFAs, they are thin and should not be heated. They quickly degenerate and become partially hydrogenated and/or oxidize and become rancid.

Coconut oil is one of the most stable oils you can buy. It does not turn rancid easily. It does not attack your arteries. In fact, coconut oil was one of the foods Dr. Weston Price studied when he traveled the world searching for healthier people and their lifestyles. In his journeys he discovered that the coconut was considered a medicine food by the local populations. He found that those civilizations that consumed coconut regularly had no knowledge of cancer, heart disease, arthritis, or diabetes.

There are few other choices for cooking unless you think of the new GMO oils like high oleic soybean, sunflower or safflower oils, Canola also fits into that group because it was one of the first GMO oils to be converted. Canola contains erucic acid, a very long chain saturated fat. It is unhealthy for our membranes, it’s too long and slows the fluidity of the membrane. Think of erucic as a gawking fat blocking our healthy fats from doing what they want to do, running quickly in our membranes managing our cells. Please avoid canola. We simply do not like GMOs for anything we eat.

The thin oils, the PUFAs, come from seeds, nuts, and grains like olive, sunflower, corn, walnut, etc. They harbor the essential fatty acids which play a vital role when the time comes for them to reproduce new versions of themselves. Oils like olive are mostly Mono-Unsaturated Fatty Acids (MUFAs), and are OK, but do not stack up with the likes of the omega 6 and 3 PUFAs, the very healthy FAs. These Poly-Unsaturated Fatty Acids, with more than one double bond, are the stars in our choices of foods. They are predominantly made up of the essential oils, the omega 6s and the omega 3s and are exclusively made by plant seeds. They are important for life and especially the brain. When we use the term essential, we mean that the body cannot function without them. They are essential for life, our life. They hold the secret to Brain health, which we will delve into on Aging and the Brain: Part 2.

To learn more about one of the most important EFA discoveries of the last century, the ratio of 6s and 3s, which is 4: 1, 80% omega 6 (linoleic) to 20% omega 3 (linolenic), go to

*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.
These products are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease.

Diabetes and Omega-3’s

Diabetes, Omega-3 fatty acids Super FoodsReading, interpreting and understanding scientific literature can be tedious because the authors often find that their previous paper on the subject missed its mark or was completely wrong. Easy to do when you are blazing new trails; however, the caution they go through to cover their tracks oftentimes makes for difficult reading. Luc Djousse and his colleagues at the U of Washington reported in the May 18, 2011 edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that, “With the use of objective biomarkers, long-chain omega 3 Fatty Acids (FAs) and Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA) were not associated with a higher incidence of diabetes. Individuals with the highest concentrations of both types of FAs had lower risk of diabetes.”

Speed reading is absolutely out of place. Omega-3 fatty acids in the body help to control the inflammation process, which is a benefit because the start of the healing process—initiated by the omega-6 arachidonic acid—also involves the possibility of getting carried away with the exercise. Say you have a cut or abrasion. The key activity that ensues is to stop the loss of fluids – save the blood.  It is that process which tells the body to start the healing by sending white blood cells and platelets to the site of the wound and to agglomerate and close the exit door by swelling the tissues, which is also another way of looking at inflammation. To inflame can be life saving. The omega-3’s are then involved in the work of modulating the activity helping to ease the inflammation that comes with the correction process.

Fatty acids, especially those that are long and highly unsaturated, increase cell membrane fluidity and functionality. Fatty acids are essential to membrane activity at the location of hormone receptors. Insulin resistance in adult-onset diabetes is directly associated with fewer membrane enhancing long-chain fatty acids, largely due to impaired function of desaturase and elongase enzymes needed for a healthy membrane. Ruiz-Gutierrez 1993, “We have studied the fatty acid composition of erythrocyte membrane phospholipids in nine Type 1 (insulin-dependent) diabetic patients and nine healthy control subjects. Cell membranes from the diabetic patients showed a marked decrease in the total amount of polyunsaturated fatty acids mainly at the expense of docosahexaenoic acid, DHA, and arachidonic acid C20:4n6”.

Cell membrane abnormalities in lipid content are found to be related to poor metabolic control, which is a characteristic of diabetes. Diet is a very important  factor, and interventions with dietary essential fatty acids (EFAs) in the correct ratio (found to be 4:1, omega-6:omega-3), can make a difference. Decsif  T., 2002, “Reduced availability of long-chain polyunsaturates in diabetic children suggests that an enhanced dietary supply of long-chain polyunsaturates may be beneficial”. Children with diabetes demonstrate a deficit of long-chain fatty acids, so incorporating them into a child’s diet is prudent. An unspoken benefit in the application of EFA’s to diabetes treatment is the decrease in triglyceride levels, themselves striking indicators of the potential for cardiovascular issues and very often appearing in persons with diabetes.

Herein resides the prolonged physiological support of the EFAs. For those who lack the efficient conversion of the omega-3 alpha linolenic acid from plant sources (notably flaxseeds and their oil) to EPA and DHA, fish oil may be a viable alternative. In fact the the FA conversion process with diabetes is almost non-existent, but also common with aging.

For quite some time the essential fatty acids have been misunderstood. Of the types of fatty acids, the omega-3’s have received the most publicity, having been applauded for positive health effects, principally, because over the last century the general population ate little fish and had little or no n-3s in the diet. Unless they were more or less health nuts, few did not have any exposure to omega 3s as in flax, and even if they did their ability to elevate up to EPA and DHA was minimal. Fish oil was the answer but the explosion that ensued caused over-consumption and still does.

Hence the comments of Djousse et al that n-3 FAs did not increase diabetes but if both the omega 6s and the 3 s were added together there was marked improvements. There is an inference that n-3s were of no benefit and needed the balance of both EFAs, which we applaud and so should you. Balance is paramount.


Djoussé L, Biggs ML, Lemaitre RN, King IB, Song X, Ix JH, Mukamal KJ, Siscovick DS, Mozaffarian D. Plasma omega-3 fatty acids and incident diabetes in older adults. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 May 18.

Ruiz-Gutierrez V, Stiefel P, Villar J, García-Donas MA, Acosta D, Carneado J.  Cell membrane fatty acid composition in type 1 (insulin-dependent) diabetic patients: relationship with sodium transport abnormalities and metabolic control.  Diabetologia. 1993 Sep;36(9):850-6.

T. Decsif, H. Minda, R. Hermann, A. Kozári, É. Erhardt, I. Burus, Sz. Molnár and Gy. Soltész  Polyunsaturated fatty acids in plasma and erythrocyte membrane lipids of diabetic children  Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids. 67(4); Oct 2002: 203-210

*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.
These products are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease.

Soda and Obesity

type 2 diabetes, obesityWhile a major study relating soda and obesity was done in California, the hypothesis, observations and outcomes are applicable to all the states of the Union.  More than half the adolescents in that state and almost a fourth of the adults treat themselves to at least one sweetened beverage every day.  One of the concerns expressed by UCLA researchers is that the serving size has grown from an average of 6.5 ounces and eighty-eight calories in the 1950’s to 20 ounces and two hundred sixty-six calories by the 2000’s.  In fast food restaurants in 2003, the average serving was 23 ounces (almost 300 calories).  These added caloric sweeteners, including high fructose corn syrup, are not only markers of a poor diet, but also are associated with overweight and obesity in all age groups.

The UCLA Health Policy Research Brief from September, 2009, reports from its data that, “Adults who drink soda occasionally (not every day) are 15% more likely to be overweight or obese, and adults who drink one or more sodas per day are 27% more likely to be overweight or obese than adults who do not drink soda, even when adjusting for poverty status and race/ethnicity.”  Even though the prevalence of overweight in children is lower than in adults, the rates among children have increased more.  In fact, overweight has tripled in teenagers and quadrupled in those from six to eleven years old in the last three decades.  In California the cost of obesity approaches twenty-one billion dollars a year, burdening families, employers and the health care industry.  The study comments that, “California spends more public and private money on the health consequences of obesity than any other state.”  To compound the matter, the article admits that “…drinking soda is also associated with increased risk for type 2 diabetes.”

One third of American adults are obese. Their health care costs $1500 more a year than it does for an average-weight person.  The Center for Disease Control announced in July, 2011, that obesity in the entire United States costs $147 billion a year in direct medical costs.  Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, director of the CDC, said the problem is “getting worse rapidly.  The average American is now 23 pounds overweight.”  For Medicare, the cost of obesity is 72% greater just for prescription drugs.  The CDC says that one in three children born in 2000 will develop diabetes.  How did we get there?  Diet.  Does the rest of the world share the problem?  Yes.  Where does the blame go?  White flour, white sugar, high fructose corn syrup, soft drinks and fast food.

Whether it gets marketed as corn sugar or as high fructose corn syrup, which is what it is, this commodity is not equal to other sweeteners when it comes to weight gain.  HFCS costs less than table sugar because, being liquid, it’s easier to transport and blend.  It’s sweeter than sucrose (table sugar), so less is needed, and it’s cheaper because of a combination of corn subsidies and sugar tariffs and quotas.  Cheap corn, in fact, is the building block of the fast-food nation.  Cheap corn created the chubby 20-ounce bottle of soda we have today.

High fructose corn syrup commonly is 55% fructose and 45% glucose, somewhat different from the 50-50 mix in table sugar, where one fructose molecule is attached to one glucose molecule.  Some HFCS may be as high as 80% fructose.  Since all sugars contain four calories per gram, there must be something else about fructose that matters.  Fructose is metabolized more rapidly that glucose, flooding metabolic pathways and increasing triglyceride storage.   It doesn’t spur the production of insulin or leptin, the hormone that sequesters appetite.  The body then lacks satiety.  This elevates serum triglycerides and increases fat storage.  Since it may have less impact on appetite than glucose, fructose contributes to weight gain.  Ingesting lots of fructose may also reduce insulin sensitivity.  (Beck-Nielsen, 1980)

Soft drink consumption has more than doubled in the twenty years from 1977 to 1997.  Not surprisingly, obesity followed the same trend. Cause and effect? It’s been estimated that for each additional sweet drink consumed per day, the odds of obesity increase by sixty percent.  A study of more than fifty thousand nurses by Harvard compared time periods from 1991-1995 and 1995-1999, and found that women whose soda consumption increased had bigger rises in body-mass index than those who drank less or the same amounts of soda. Fast food seems to go well with it.  Unhealthy foods get along nicely with each other.

The debate between the soft drink industry and the health nuts is ongoing.  People who consume lots of fresh-squeezed juices, vegetables and fruits are not the same group that consumes soda and cold cut sandwiches.  The daily calories from soft drinks account for almost a fourth of the recommended daily intake for many Americans, who drink almost fifty-six gallons of soda a year.

In case you’re interested, more than 30% of Americans are obese. More than 24% of Mexicans, 23% of British, 22% of Slovakians, 22% of Greeks and Australians, 21% of New Zealanders, and 15% of Czechs, but only 3% of Japanese and Koreans. Go figure. Obesity, by the way, means being more than 20% above ideal weight for height.


UCLA Health Policy Research Brief
September 2009
Bubbling Over: Soda Consumption and Its Link to Obesity in California
Susan H. Babey, Malia Jones, Hongjian Yu and Harold Goldstein

In California, 62% of adolescents ages 12-17 and 41% of children ages 2-11 drink at least
one soda or other sweetened beverage every day. In addition, 24% of adults drink at least
one soda or other sweetened beverage on an average day. Adults who drink soda occasionally
(not every day) are 15% more likely to be overweight or obese, and adults who drink one or
more sodas per day are 27% more likely to be overweight or obese than adults who do not
drink soda, even when adjusting for poverty status and race/ethnicity.

The prevalence of overweight and obesity has increased dramatically in both adults
and children in the last three decades in the United States. In the 1970s, about 15% of
adults were obese and by 2004 the rate had climbed to 32%.1 Although the prevalence of
overweight among children is lower than among adults, the rates among children and
adolescents have increased considerably more. The prevalence of overweight and obesity
nearly tripled among 12-19 year olds and more than quadrupled among 6-11 year olds
in the last three decades.

In California, 21% of adults are currently obese and an additional 35% are overweight. Among adolescents, 14% are obese and another 16% are overweight.2 Similar to national trends, the trend in California is toward increasing weight in both adults and adolescents.3 Each year in California, overweight and obesity cost families, employers, the health care industry and the government $21 billion.4 California spends more public and private money on the health consequences of obesity than any other state.5

Overweight and obesity are associated with serious health risks. In children and adolescents, overweight and obesity are associated with increased risk for cardiovascular disease indicators including high total cholesterol, high blood pressure, and high fasting insulin, an early indicator of diabetes risk.6 In addition, overweight children and adolescents are more likely to be overweight or obese as adults.7 In adults, overweight and obesity are associated with increased risk for diabetes, heart disease, stroke, some types of cancer and premature death.1, 8, 9

Drinking sweetened beverages such as soda and fruit drinks that have added caloric sweeteners (e.g., sucrose, high fructose corn syrup) is one marker of a poor diet, and is
associated with overweight and obesity in people of all ages.10-13 A number of studies have found that greater consumption of sweetened beverages is associated with overweight and obesity among both adults and children.12-19 In addition, randomized controlled trials that examine the impact of reducing intake of sweetened beverages on weight indicate
that reducing consumption of soda and other sweetened drinks leads to reductions in
overweight and obesity.20, 21 Among adults, drinking soda is also associated with increased risk for type 2 diabetes.13 Moreover, drinking sweetened beverages has
increased, and it is now more common than ever, particularly among adolescents.22
Between 1977 and 2002 Americans increased their calorie intake from soft drinks by
228%.23 Portion sizes have also increased from an average serving size of 6.5 fl oz (88 calories) in the 1950s, to 12 fl oz (150 calories), 20 fl oz (266 calories), and even larger portion sizes common today.24-26 The average serving size of soft drinks in fast food restaurants in 2002 was 23 fl oz (299 calories), with some chains now commonly selling soft drinks in 32 to 64 fl oz portions (416 to 832 calories, respectively).27 Sweetened beverages are a significant contributor to total caloric intake, especially for children and adolescents, and they lack the nutrients our bodies need.24, 26, 28

Additionally, eating habits established in childhood are important determinants of
eating habits as adults.29, 30

Am J Clin Nutr February 1980 vol. 33 no. 2 273-278
Impaired cellular insulin binding and insulin sensitivity induced by high-fructose feeding in normal subjects
H Beck-Nielsen, O Pedersen and HO Lindskov

We have studied whether the sucrose-induced reduction of insulin sensitivity and cellular insulin binding in normal man is related to the fructose or the glucose moiety. Seven young healthy subjects were fed their usual diets plus 1000 kcal extra glucose per day and eight young healthy subjects were fed their usual diets with addition of 1000 kcal extra fructose per day. The dietary regimens continued for 1 week. Before change of diet there were no statistically significant differences between body weight and fasting plasma concentrations of glucose, insulin, and ketone bodies in the two groups studied. High- glucose feeding caused no significant changes in insulin binding or insulin sensitivity whereas high-fructose feeding was accompanied by a significant reduction both of insulin binding (P less than 0.05) and insulin sensitivity (P less than 0.05). The changes in insulin binding and insulin sensitivity correlated linearly (r = 0.52, P less than 0.01). We conclude that fructose seems to be responsible for the impaired insulin binding and insulin sensitivity induced by sucrose.

Medscape J Med. 2008;10(8):189. Epub 2008 Aug 12.
Soft drinks and weight gain: how strong is the link?
Wolff E, Dansinger ML.
Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

Soft drink consumption in the United States has tripled in recent decades, paralleling the dramatic increases in obesity prevalence. The purpose of this clinical review is to evaluate the extent to which current scientific evidence supports a causal link between sugar-sweetened soft drink consumption and weight gain.

MEDLINE search of articles published in all languages between 1966 and December 2006 containing key words or medical subheadings, such as “soft drinks” and “weight.” Additional articles were obtained by reviewing references of retrieved articles, including a recent systematic review. All reports with cross-sectional, prospective cohort, or clinical trial data in humans were considered.

Six of 15 cross-sectional and 6 of 10 prospective cohort studies identified statistically significant associations between soft drink consumption and increased body weight. There were 5 clinical trials; the two that involved adolescents indicated that efforts to reduce sugar-sweetened soft drinks slowed weight gain. In adults, 3 small experimental studies suggested that consumption of sugar-sweetened soft drinks caused weight gain; however, no trial in adults was longer than 10 weeks or included more than 41 participants. No trial reported the effects on lipids.

Although observational studies support the hypothesis that sugar-sweetened soft drinks cause weight gain, a paucity of hypothesis-confirming clinical trial data has left the issue open to debate. Given the magnitude of the public health concern, larger and longer intervention trials should be considered to clarify the specific effects of sugar-sweetened soft drinks on body weight and other cardiovascular risk factors.  PMID: 18924641

Diabetes Care. 2010 Nov;33(11):2477-83. Epub 2010 Aug 6.
Sugar-sweetened beverages and risk of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes: a meta-analysis.
Malik VS, Popkin BM, Bray GA, Després JP, Willett WC, Hu FB.

Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, and Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, MA, USA.

Consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), which include soft drinks, fruit drinks, iced tea, and energy and vitamin water drinks has risen across the globe. Regular consumption of SSBs has been associated with weight gain and risk of overweight and obesity, but the role of SSBs in the development of related chronic metabolic diseases, such as metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes, has not been quantitatively reviewed.

We searched the MEDLINE database up to May 2010 for prospective cohort studies of SSB intake and risk of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. We identified 11 studies (three for metabolic syndrome and eight for type 2 diabetes) for inclusion in a random-effects meta-analysis comparing SSB intake in the highest to lowest quantiles in relation to risk of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.

Based on data from these studies, including 310,819 participants and 15,043 cases of type 2 diabetes, individuals in the highest quantile of SSB intake (most often 1-2 servings/day) had a 26% greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those in the lowest quantile (none or <1 serving/month) (relative risk [RR] 1.26 [95% CI 1.12-1.41]). Among studies evaluating metabolic syndrome, including 19,431 participants and 5,803 cases, the pooled RR was 1.20 [1.02-1.42].

In addition to weight gain, higher consumption of SSBs is associated with development of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. These data provide empirical evidence that intake of SSBs should be limited to reduce obesity-related risk of chronic metabolic diseases.

J Public Health Policy. 2004;25(3-4):353-66.
The obesity epidemic in the United States.
Morrill AC, Chinn CD.
Capacities Inc., Watertown, Massachusetts 02471, USA.

We describe the epidemic of obesity in the United States: escalating rates of obesity in both adults and children, and why these qualify as an epidemic; disparities in overweight and obesity by race/ethnicity and sex, and the staggering health and economic consequences of obesity. Physical activity contributes to the epidemic as explained by new patterns of physical activity in adults and children. Changing patterns of food consumption, such as rising carbohydrate intake–particularly in the form of soda and other foods containing high fructose corn syrup–also contribute to obesity. We present as a central concept, the food environment–the contexts within which food choices are made–and its contribution to food consumption: the abundance and ubiquity of certain types of foods over others; limited food choices available in certain settings, such as schools; the market economy of the United States that exposes individuals to many marketing/advertising strategies. Advertising tailored to children plays an important role.  PMID: 15683071

*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.
These products are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease.

Indoor Air Pollution

indoor air pollutionIndoor air pollution is one of the most overlooked threats to human health. Households in developing countries might be the hardest hit. Because children spend almost eighty percent of their time indoors, they are the most likely victims. In the past several years it has been determined that conditions ranging from asthma, headaches and fatigue to allergic reactions, hormone imbalances and central nervous damage may be attributed to indoor air quality—or, rather, the lack of it. Most of us realize that outdoor air quality can affect health, but few pay attention to the indoor air…unless it smells bad.

In a paper supported by the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and printed in the British Medical Bulletin in the early 2000’s, Junfeng (Jim) Zhang and Kirk Smith allowed that the ubiquitous character of indoor air pollution “…may contribute to increasing prevalence of asthma, autism, childhood cancer, medically unexplained symptoms, and perhaps other illnesses.”   Because the sources of indoor pollution are not expected to abate in the near future, particularly those associated with tobacco use, we can expect to voice concerns for a long time. The authors add that “…risks associated with solid fuel combustion coincide with risk associated with modern buildings.”

It is absurd that indoor air quality should be so poor that it causes sickness and disease, yet that appears to be more the rule than the exception in modern times.  Nobody would think of running a tractor-trailer or a tour bus in the living room, but the pollution effect is the same.  Most of us are unaware of the problem because a single major source of indoor pollution can’t be fingered. Despite this unrecognized threat, indoor pollution is twice as bad as outdoor, according to studies performed by the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins.  Others put the rate at five times. There are so many sources of indoor pollution that have become part of our daily lives that we never question them. Have you thought about the unpronounceable ingredients in your cleaning products and other household chemicals, like the pesticides you use in the yard? How about your cosmetics and the smelly things you plug into the wall to hide other smelly things?  Got new carpet or upholstery? Oh, yeah, there are more, such as the aroma of hot tar being applied to the new roof at your children’s school…while school’s in session. The activity may be outdoors, but the sickening smell is certainly indoors.

The influx of biological pollutants is hard to manage.  Molds, bacteria, viruses, animal dander, skin particles (yes, even human), pollen and dust mites are everywhere.  You can see airborne particles in that beam of sunshine coming through the window, but you can’t identify any of them.  Some can breed in the stagnant water that sits in your humidifier, or where water has collected in your ceiling tiles, insulation or carpet.  These things can cause fever, chills, cough, and chest tightness, among other symptoms.  Even when we do what we think is good for the family, we may do the opposite.  Burning the woodstove or fireplace might save money on the heating bill (though the fireplace is suspect), but how about the junk it puts into the air?  You can’t win, eh?

In our attempts to conserve energy, we have sealed our houses so tightly that nothing can get in and less can get out.  Once we change the air pressure dynamics of our houses, we have allowed intruders to enter.  Radon and soil gases are most common, and they creep through the cellar floor.  Mechanical ventilation can help to get the junk out and bring at least some fresher air in.  Not only does insulation contribute to the tightness of our homes, but also it brings problems of its own in the form of irritating chemicals.

Increasing ventilation is one of the easiest steps to improving indoor air quality.  Even in the dead of winter it’s a good idea to open the front and back doors simultaneously once a day to let fresh cold air in and the stale reheated air out.  Pathogens grow in an environment that is warm, dark and damp.  Your hot-air heater is a prime breeding ground for colds and the like.  The American Lung Association and the Mayo Clinic have recognized air filters as being sufficiently effective to allay at least some of the problem.   Using a vacuum with a HEPA filter is another prudent intervention.

Concerning household cleaners, we all know that anything natural costs more than anything man-made, and that mindset is hard to figure out.  Why do we have to pay for things that are left out?  In the mean time, note that vinegar-water concoctions are just as good as many commercial products at cleaning our homes—even the commode.  Who cares if it smells like salad?

But what might just be the best air cleaner on the planet is a collection of house plants.  Formaldehyde is a major contaminant of indoor air, originating from particle board, carpets, window coverings, paper products, tobacco smoke, and other sources.  These can contribute to what has been called “sick building syndrome.”  The use of green plants to clean indoor air has been known for years.  This phytoremediation has been studied with great intensity in a few laboratories across the globe, where it was learned that ferns have the greatest capability of absorbing toxins.  (Kim, Kays. 2010)  As is the case with many endeavors, there is a hierarchy of plants that does the job.  After the ferns, the common spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) was found best at removing gaseous pollutants, including formaldehyde.  Way back in 1984 NASA released information about how good the spider plant is at swallowing up indoor air pollution.  The heartleaf philodendron partners well with Chlorophytum.  Dr. Bill Wolverton, retired from NASA, has a list (  Areca and lady palms, Boston fern, golden pothos and the dracaenas are at the top.  Plants with fuzzy leaves are best at removing particulates from smoke and grease, and some are even maintenance-free (almost), including the aloes, cacti, and the aforementioned spider plants, pothos and dracaenas, the last sometimes called the corn plant.

For more information, try these resources:

Indoor Air Pollution Increases Asthma Symptoms (Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health)

Pollution at Home Often Lurks Unrecognized (12/26/2008, Reuters Health) by Amy Norton

Air Purifiers and Air Filters Can Help the Health of Allergy and Asthmas Sufferers (S. A. Smith)

Indoor Air Pollution Fact Sheet (08/1999, American Lung Association)

An Introduction to Indoor Air Quality (Environmental Protection Agency)


Br Med Bull (2003) 68 (1): 209-225.
Indoor air pollution: a global health concern
Junfeng (Jim) Zhang and Kirk R Smith

Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute & School of Public Health, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, NJ

Indoor air pollution is ubiquitous, and takes many forms, ranging from smoke emitted from solid fuel combustion, especially in households in developing countries, to complex mixtures of volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds present in modern buildings. This paper reviews sources of, and health risks associated with, various indoor chemical pollutants, from a historical and global perspective. Health effects are presented for individual compounds or pollutant mixtures based on real-world exposure situations. Health risks from indoor air pollution are likely to be greatest in cities in developing countries, especially where risks associated with solid fuel combustion coincide with risk associated with modern buildings. Everyday exposure to multiple chemicals, most of which are present indoors, may contribute to increasing prevalence of asthma, autism, childhood cancer, medically unexplained symptoms, and perhaps other illnesses. Given that tobacco consumption and synthetic chemical usage will not be declining at least in the near future, concerns about indoor air pollution may be expected to remain.

Nippon Eiseigaku Zasshi. 2009 May;64(3):683-8.
[Indoor air pollution of volatile organic compounds: indoor/outdoor concentrations, sources and exposures]. [Article in Japanese]
Chikara H, Iwamoto S, Yoshimura T.
Fukuoka Institute of Health and Environmental Sciences, Mukaizano, Dazaifu, Fukuoka 818-0135, Japan.

In this review, we discussed about volatile organic compounds (VOC) concentrations, sources of VOC, exposures, and effects of VOC in indoor air on health in Japan. Because the ratios of indoor concentration (I) to outdoor concentration (O) (I/O ratios) were larger than 1 for nearly all compounds, it is clear that indoor contaminations occur in Japan. However, the concentrations of basic compounds such as formaldehyde and toluene were decreased by regulation of guideline indoor values. Moreover, when the sources of indoor contaminations were investigated, we found that the sources were strongly affected by to outdoor air pollutions such as automobile exhaust gas. Since people live different lifestyles, individual exposures have been investigated in several studies. Individual exposures strongly depended on indoor concentrations in houses. However, outdoor air pollution cannot be disregarded as the sources of VOC. As an example of the effect of VOC on health, it has been indicated that there is a possibility of exceeding a permissible cancer risk level owing to exposure to VOC over a lifetime.

Environ Sci Technol. 2009 Nov 1;43(21):8338-43.
Uptake of aldehydes and ketones at typical indoor concentrations by houseplants.
Tani A, Hewitt CN.
Institute for Environmental Sciences, University of Shizuoka, Shizuoka 422-8526, Japan.

The uptake rates of low-molecular weight aldehydes and ketones by peace lily (Spathiphyllum clevelandii) and golden pothos (Epipremnum aureum) leaves at typical indoor ambient concentrations (10(1)-10(2) ppbv) were determined. The C3-C6 aldehydes and C4-C6 ketones were taken up by the plant leaves, but the C3 ketone acetone was not. The uptake rate normalized to the ambient concentration C(a) ranged from 7 to 19 mmol m(-2) s(-1) and from 2 to 7 mmol m(-2) s(-1) for the aldehydes and ketones, respectively. Longer-term fumigation results revealed that the total uptake amounts were 30-100 times as much as the amounts dissolved in the leaf, suggesting that volatile organic carbons are metabolized in the leaf and/or translocated through the petiole. The ratio of the intercellular concentration to the external (ambient) concentration (C(i)/C(a)) was significantly lower for most aldehydes than for most ketones. In particular, a linear unsaturated aldehyde, crotonaldehyde, had a C(i)/C(a) ratio of approximately 0, probably because of its highest solubility in water.

Proc Am Thorac Soc. 2010 May;7(2):102-6.
Indoor air pollution and asthma in children.
Breysse PN, Diette GB, Matsui EC, Butz AM, Hansel NN, McCormack MC.
Department of Environmental Heath Sciences, Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, 615 N. Wolfe Street, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA.

The purpose of this article is to review indoor air pollution factors that can modify asthma severity, particularly in inner-city environments. While there is a large literature linking ambient air pollution and asthma morbidity, less is known about the impact of indoor air pollution on asthma. Concentrating on the indoor environments is particularly important for children, since they can spend as much as 90% of their time indoors. This review focuses on studies conducted by the Johns Hopkins Center for Childhood Asthma in the Urban Environment as well as other relevant epidemiologic studies. Analysis of exposure outcome relationships in the published literature demonstrates the importance of evaluating indoor home environmental air pollution sources as risk factors for asthma morbidity. Important indoor air pollution determinants of asthma morbidity in urban environments include particulate matter (particularly the coarse fraction), nitrogen dioxide, and airborne mouse allergen exposure. Avoidance of harmful environmental exposures is a key component of national and international guideline recommendations for management of asthma. This literature suggests that modifying the indoor environment to reduce particulate matter, NO(2), and mouse allergen may be an important asthma management strategy. More research documenting effectiveness of interventions to reduce those exposures and improve asthma outcomes is needed.

HortScience 45: 1489-1495 (2010)
Variation in Formaldehyde Removal Efficiency among Indoor Plant Species
Kwang Jin Kim1, Myeong Il Jeong, Dong Woo Lee, Jeong Seob Song, Hyoung Deug Kim, Eun Ha Yoo, Sun Jin Jeong and Seung Won Han

The efficiency of volatile formaldehyde removal was assessed in 86 species of plants representing five general classes (ferns, woody foliage plants, herbaceous foliage plants, Korean native plants, and herbs). Phytoremediation potential was assessed by exposing the plants to gaseous formaldehyde (2.0 µL·L–1) in airtight chambers (1.0 m3) constructed of inert materials and measuring the rate of removal. Osmunda japonica, Selaginella tamariscina, Davallia mariesii, Polypodium formosanum, Psidium guajava, Lavandula spp., Pteris dispar, Pteris multifida, and Pelargonium spp. were the most effective species tested, removing more than 1.87 µg·m–3·cm–2 over 5 h. Ferns had the highest formaldehyde removal efficiency of the classes of plants tested with O. japonica the most effective of the 86 species (i.e., 6.64 µg·m–3·cm–2 leaf area over 5 h). The most effective species in individual classes were: ferns—Osmunda japonica, Selaginella tamariscina, and Davallia mariesii; woody foliage plants—Psidium guajava, Rhapis excels, and Zamia pumila; herbaceous foliage plants—Chlorophytum bichetii, Dieffenbachia ‘Marianne’, Tillandsia cyanea, and Anthurium andraeanum; Korean native plants—Nandina domestica; and herbs—Lavandula spp., Pelargonium spp., and Rosmarinus officinalis. The species were separated into three general groups based on their formaldehyde removal efficiency: excellent (greater than 1.2 µg·m–3 formaldehyde per cm2 of leaf area over 5 h), intermediate (1.2 or less to 0.6), and poor (less than 0.6). Species classified as excellent are considered viable phytoremediation candidates for homes and offices where volatile formaldehyde is a concern.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.
These products are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease.

Importance of Iodine

Importance of IodineIodine (I) is essential, which clearly means we need it. Just as we need zinc or magnesium, we need I. The common iodine deficiency disorders include goiter, hypothyroidism, mental retardation, reproductive impairment, and decreased child survival; however that short group is only the beginning of health problems with a lack of iodine. The recent meltdown of the nuclear power stations in Japan may have highlighted the urgent need for Iodine, but even though the threat has passed, the health requirement for I has not diminished. It’s even more important than we have been led to believe.

David Derry MD PhD, “Fibrocystic disease of the breast consists of small or large, sometimes painful lumps in women’s breasts. It varies in the way it shows—not only in different women, but also because it changes from month to month in the same women. Medical doctors generally believe that fibrocystic disease results from the excess number of cells that grow in the breast during the menstrual cycle from the hormonal stimulation.

“Since the number of cells increases in the breast during the cycle, some of the cells have to be removed to restore the normal condition each month. Iodine is the trigger mechanism that causes excess cells to disappear to complete this normal process of cell death. Without enough iodine, the extra cells that develop during the menstrual cycle due to the hormonal stimulation do not resolve back to the normal breast architecture. These leftover cells build up over repeated cycles and cause the lumps, soreness, and larger lesions of fibrocystic disease.

“However, while about 90 percent of North American women have fibrocystic disease, about 40 percent of these women experience no symptoms. Their breasts may be normal to examination, but at that point the disease may be only microscopically detectable with a biopsy.

“Enough iodine enables the excess cells to be cleared out, and the breast to return to its normal resting state; the fibrocystic disease has slowly disappeared from the breast.

Nobel Laureate Albert Szent Györgyi, the physician who discovered Vitamin C in 1928, commented: “When I was a medical student, iodine in the form of KI (potassium iodide) was the universal medicine. Nobody knew what it did, but it did something and did something good. We students used to sum up the situation in this little rhyme:

If ye don’t know where, what, and why
prescribe ye then K and I”.

“Iodine remains the perfect antiseptic with the least side effects of all time. As a perfect antiseptic killing all single-celled organisms, there has to be a common mechanism of a single element like iodine.

“This is part of a general thesis that both iodine and thyroid hormone act as a team to provide a constant surveillance against abnormal cell development, including carcinogenic chemicals that can spread cancer cells within the body.

“Iodine appears to have several more roles in the body. Iodine protects against abnormal growth of bacteria in the stomach (helicobacter pylori is the most clinically significant). Iodine can coat incoming allergic proteins to make them non-allergic; It also deactivates all biological and most chemical poisons in the stomach.

“”I propose that…iodine and thyroid hormones act as a team to provide a constant surveillance against abnormal cell development and the spread of cancer cells within the body including chemicals that are carcinogenic” writes Dr. Derry, who, in addition to holding an MD, also has a PhD in neurochemistry and is a former University of Toronto Medical Research Council Scholar.  “Cancer grows so slowly when using iodine and thyroid hormone therapy that the cancer will not affect the lives of the patients who have it. The treatment is non-invasive, inexpensive and safe.”

Dr.  Derry also credits iodine with several other roles in the body: It protects against abnormal growth of bacteria in the stomach.  It detoxifies chemicals, food poisoning, snake venom, etc. It coats incoming allergic proteins to make them non-allergic, and probably defuses autoimmune disease mechanisms in the same way.

How much iodine is enough? It has been shown that daily doses of iodine above two to three milligrams per day (about half a drop of Lugols from a standard eyedropper) saturate the thyroid within a couple of weeks. At this point, the thyroid gland stops taking up iodine. This means that at a dietary intake above two to three milligrams, all of the iodine goes to all its other functions in the body, such as killing off abnormal cells.

BodyBio has been marketing Iodine for ~10 years, but after extensive testing has added a Liquid Iodine Taste Testing Kit to its famous Liquid Mineral line. This is the absolute best way to take Iodine safely (or any essential mineral) — taste it first. Use your own taste buds to see if you even need it to begin with. We do that for all the trace minerals (which we desperately need) and guess what – Iodine, if anything, is another essential mineral. There’s no reason that we should not rely on our sense of taste for Iodine just as we have for them all.

Dr Derry suggests about half a drop of Lugols solution. That’s equivalent to ~36 drops of BodyBio Iodine (~2.4 mgs of potassium iodide), very close to a ½ drop of Lugol’s. Why reinvent the wheel, follow the expert’s advice as suggested in Dr. Derry’s book; available on Amazon “Breast Cancer and Iodine: How to Prevent and How to Survive Breast Cancer”.

BOOK-BreastCancer-IodinewebAny good Iodine supplement such as  Lugols®, Iodoral®, or BodyBio Iodine # 9, will suffice. However, BodyBio alone guides you to recognize when you have filled up your Iodine stores, when you have enough. Simply by putting 36 drops of BodyBio Iodine in 8 ounces of filtered water you have created your personal testing solution. Just a taste of the solution is enough to guide you. If it has a pleasant taste (hmm good), or, if there is no taste (plain water) – you need it. If the taste is strong or disturbing – do not take it. It does not get any simpler.

You can now fill up your Iodine bucket (or any of the essential minerals that we require). If it’s low (most everyone will be), take 36 drops per day and add that into your daily mineral drink. Please check your taste response often, at least weekly, to avoid taking an excess of I or any mineral you do not need. This is too important to put off. Call BodyBio at 888 320 8338 and order the New BodyBio Iodine Test Kit – do it today.   


*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.
These products are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease.

Do You Wash Your Produce? Why?

washing produce, e. coliIn his June 11, 2011 column for Newsmax Health (, Dr. Russell Blaylock, noted neurosurgeon and lecturer, admonished his readers to pay careful attention to the washing of their produce, especially in light of the recent outbreak of deadly E.coli in Europe, where more than 4,000 people were afflicted, and more than a few dozen died. None of us can tell where our food has been before it hit the home refrigerator. Not only E. coli, but also other strains of pathogenic bacteria can lurk in our foods. The steps we take to ensure food safety after we get it home from the store or the garden market makes all the difference in the world.

Dr. Blaylock states that, “Eating raw, contaminated food appears to be the culprit in the recent outbreak in Europe.” He cites two main reasons: the use of human waste as fertilizer and the failure of people to wash their produce before eating. He adds that the problem is rampant because, “People assume…that the government is looking out for their safety.” Although the FDA website reminds people to wash biocides off their produce, there are no public reminders of the biological menaces that might accompany those chemicals. Because kidney failure is one of the dangers of E.coli poisoning, Dr. Blaylock tells of using magnesium as a counter measure in his own case of food poisoning, keeping in mind that “magnesium protects the kidneys and can protect against vascular collapse associated with gram-negative bacteria such as E. coli.”

How many times has that lemon slice in the water your waiter brought you fallen to the floor?  How many people touched it before you got it?  Who handled it from orchard to the packing house to the grocery store to the restaurant?  Listeria, Salmonella, and E. coli could have come from any pair of dirty hands, whether organically or conventionally grown. We need the produce, but not the bacteria, pesticides and bugs that might be attached.

E. coli normally inhabits the intestines of humans and animals. There are a few different strains, but some are dangerous.  Bloody diarrhea, severe abdominal pain and vomiting are some of the symptoms of food poisoning. But some are worse. Among them is hemolytic uremic syndrome, where blood cells shrivel and die and kidneys fail to function in severe cases, usually among the old and the very young.

Washing produce is not really a big production. Start by keeping all work surfaces and cutting tools clean. Wash hands before preparing produce and meats, and always after handling animal products. Keep all fruits and vegetables away from raw meat to avoid cross-contamination.  If you wash produce too far ahead of the meal and keep it in the fridge too long, it might spoil before you get to eat it.  Foods with rinds or peels can harbor bacteria. Before you cut the cantaloupe or orange, and before you peel the banana, wash it. If you feel better about using a cleaning agent, try mixing hydrogen peroxide 50-50 with water, although 30-70 will probably suffice. In truth, those commercial preparations are no better than this, and are not much better than plain water.  Dump the outer leaves of lettuces and cabbages, and rinse the rest.  Get a salad spinner to dry leaves so the dressing will adhere.  Firm produce, like potatoes and apples, can withstand a brushing under running water.

When it comes to chemical contamination, some foods are worse than others, according to the Environmental Working Group.  The most heavily sprayed foods include apples, celery, strawberries, peaches, spinach, imported nectarines and grapes, bell peppers, potatoes, blueberries, lettuce, and kale and collards.  The least are onions, corn, pineapples, avocadoes, asparagus, peas, mangoes, eggplants, cantaloupes, kiwi, cabbages, watermelons, sweet potatoes, grapefruit, and mushrooms.

They might look gorgeous on the outside, but who knows what they’re really like…just as with people.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.
These products are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease.

Vitamins? Why?

vitaminsDo you take vitamins? Yes? Why? No? Why not?  Confusing, isn’t it? Can we ever get to the bottom of the yes-no controversy?

First of all, let’s find out what we’re talking about.

The word “vitamins” describes organic substances that are quite diverse in function and structure.  It was initially felt that these compounds could be obtained through a normal diet, and that they were capable of promoting growth and development, and of maintaining life.  The word itself was coined by a Polish biochemist named Casimir Funk, in 1911.  He deemed these substances to be chemical amines, thinking that all contained a nitrogen atom.  Since they were considered to be vital to existence (“vita” means “life” in Latin), they were called “vitamines.”  After it was discovered that they all did not have a nitrogen atom, and, therefore, were not amines, the terminal “e” was dropped.  Funk was working in London at the time, at the Lister Institute, where he isolated a substance without which chickens would suffer neurological inflammation.

The lettered names of the vitamins were ascribed to them in the order of their discovery.  Vitamin K, however, is the exception.  Its label was given by the Danish researcher Henrik Dam, from the word “koagulation.”

If a vitamin is improperly absorbed, or is absent from the diet, a deficiency exists and a specific disease may surface, such as Beriberi, which was noted by William Fletcher in 1905 when symptoms appeared in populations whose diet consisted mostly of polished rice, lacking the thiamine-rich husk.  Lack of thiamine, or vitamin B1, causes emotional disturbances, physical weakness, heart failure, impaired sensory perception, and, in severe circumstances, eventual death.

Scurvy, a deficiency of vitamin C, was once a common ailment of sailors and others who were out to sea for a longer time than their fruits and vegetables could remain edible.  The Latin name of this condition that caused bleeding from the mucus membranes and spongy gums is “scorbutus,” from which we get “ascorbic acid.”  James Lind, a surgeon in the Royal Navy, learned in the 1750s that scurvy could be treated with citrus fruits, and he wrote about his experiments in his 1753 book, “A Treatise of the Scurvy.”

If vitamins are so “vital,” what, exactly, are their roles in human health and well-being?  Vitamin A was first synthesized in 1947, though discovered around 1912 by researchers Elmer McCollum and M. Davis, and later isolated from butter by Yale scientists Thomas Osborne and Lafayette Mendel.  This nutrient contains carotene compounds that are responsible for transmitting light signals to the retina of the eye.  McCollum also uncovered the B vitamins, but later researchers isolated each of the individual factors.

We already know that a lack of B1 causes Beriberi, while a deficiency of B2 may lead to inflammation of the lining of the mouth.  Also called riboflavin, B2 is responsible for the reactions of enzymes, as is its partner, B3 (niacin).  In general, the gamut of B vitamins is involved in the same metabolic processes.  It was decided that a B vitamin must meet specific criteria:  it must be water-soluble, must be essential for all cells, and must function as a coenzyme.  B12 and folate have the added responsibility of being involved in the synthesis of nucleic acid.  Folate is the form of the nutrient naturally found in food, while folic acid is synthetic. Great excesses of one B vitamin can cause deficiencies of the others.  Therefore, if taken as supplements, it is recommended that they be taken together.

Besides preventing scurvy, as mentioned, vitamin C helps the body to make collagen, the protein that acts as the framework for the body.  Collagen is a major component of ligaments and cartilage, it strengthens blood vessels, and it is responsible for skin strength and elasticity.  Vitamin C was the first to be artificially made, in 1935.

Vitamin D is not actually a vitamin, but a prohormone, meaning that it is a precursor to a hormone, called 1,25-D, which helps the body to make its own steroids, such as cholesterol, a substance absolutely necessary to the integrity of each of our trillions of cells.  Vitamin D is needed to maintain correct calcium and phosphorus levels, to assure proper bone mineralization, and to support the immune system.  A severe deficiency leads to rickets, a softening of the bones—usually in children—that was studied in 1922 by Edward Mellanby.

Vitamin E is actually a group of isomers (like-structured molecules) that function as antioxidants.  Study of this fat-soluble nutrient has focused on its purported benefits to the cardiovascular system. University of California researchers discovered vitamin E while studying green, leafy vegetables, in the 1920s.

Another fat-soluble substance, vitamin K is used by the body to assist in the manufacture of bone, and in the manufacture of blood clotting proteins, without which serious bleeding episodes may occur.  This nutrient has been available from green leafy vegetables and from the brassica family, such as broccoli, cauliflower, and kale.

Now the question is, “Can we get all these nutrients from our food, or is supplementation necessary?”

Working at the University of Texas Biochemical Institute, Dr. Donald Davis led a crop-nutrient study in 2004.  He and his team found that the nutrient value of forty-three garden crops has declined considerably over the past fifty years.  As reported in the “Journal of the American College of Nutrition” in December of that year, the forty-three crops showed “statistically reliable declines” in protein, calcium, iron, phosphorus, riboflavin (vitamin B2), and ascorbic acid (vitamin C).  Some nutrients could not be compared because their values were not reported in the 1950s.  They include magnesium, zinc, vitamin B6, vitamin E, dietary fiber, and phytochemicals.

After accounting for possible confounders, the study concluded that the change in nutrient value could be ascribed to changes in cultivated varieties, in which there could have been a trade-off between crop yield and nutrient value.  Dr. Davis added that farmers are paid by the weight of a crop, not by its food value.

Some innovative farming techniques have given rise to faster-growing crops, which, by virtue of their seed-to-market time, do not have sufficient time to develop their nutrients.  They do not have the chance to absorb everything they need from the soil.

Crop rotation has fallen into disfavor by some farms because it requires more planning and management skills than are at hand, thus increasing the complexity of farming.  Rotation of crops helps to reduce insect and disease problems, improves soil fertility, reduces soil erosion, and limits biocide carryover.  If, however, a single crop is a big moneymaker for the farm, why should it bother even to try to grow something else?  Why bother to rotate crops when chemical fertilizers, herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides can help to guarantee a bumper crop?  Could nutrient value be affected by using these artificial chemicals?  Do these materials come into our bodies?  Do we have the proper kinds and amounts of nutrients to detoxify them?  Maybe we do; maybe not.

Nitrogen-fixing bacteria convert atmospheric nitrogen to organic nitrogen, thus contributing to the food value of the crop.  Certain crops, like the legumes, are better than others at replacing nitrogen lost from the soil.  Nitrogen is part of a protein molecule.  Without nitrogen there is no protein.  While it is beneficial to the food and the soil to plant a legume following the harvest of a more lucrative planting, it is not often done.

Therefore, the same plant in place continues to withdraw the same minerals repeatedly, year after year, with little chance for replenishment except by chemical means, if at all.  How many of us would prefer to get our dietary needs from unnatural sources, like iron from rusted nails, or zinc from galvanized wire?

In a study of peaches and pears published in the “Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry” in 2002, Marina Carbonaro, of the National Institute for Nutrition Studies, in Rome, reported a difference in the nutrition content of organic versus traditionally raised fruits.  Amounts of polyphenols, citric and ascorbic acids, and alpha-tocopherol were increased in the organically grown crops.  She and her colleagues concluded that the improved antioxidant defense of the plants developed as a result of organic cultivation methods.  Which do you think has more vitamin C?

Here is a sampling of how the nutrient content of broccoli and potatoes sold in Canada has changed from 1951 to 1999.  This information was compiled by Jeffrey Christian.

Broccoli, Raw, 3 spears, 93g. 100/93=1.08
Calcium (mg) Iron
Vitamin A (I.U.) Vitamin C (mg) Thiamine (mg) Riboflavin (mg) Niacin (mg)
1951 130.00 1.30 3500 104.0 0.10 0.21 1.10
1972 87.78 0.78 2500 90.0 0.09 0.20 0.78
1999 48.30 0.86 1542 93.5 0.06 0.12 1.07
% Change -62.85 -33.85 -55.94 -10.10 -40.00 -42.86 -2.73
Potatoes, one potato, peeled before boiling, 136g. 100/136=.74
Calcium (mg) Iron
Vitamin A (I.U.) Vitamin C (mg) Thiamine (mg) Riboflavin (mg) Niacin (mg)
1951 11.00 0.70 20.00 17.00 0.11 0.04 1.20
1972 5.74 0.49 0.00 16.39 0.09 0.03 1.15
1999 7.97 0.30 0.00 7.25 0.09 0.02 1.74

The USDA, in its statistical bulletin # 978, made public in June, 2002, titled “The Changing Landscape of U. S. Milk Production,” admitted that milk production has increased because of “advances in animal nutrition and health, improved artificial breeding techniques, and the recent addition of biotechnology, such as…rbST…”
rbST is a hormone that is administered to cows to increase milk production.  Take a look at how milk production has changed, and then decide if there might be implications that could involve humans.

In 1950, a single cow (I mean one cow, not an unmarried cow.) produced 5,314 pounds of milk.  By 1975, she increased her output to 10,360 pounds.  In 2000, that amount increased to 18,204 pounds.  The USDA admits that “…a 76-percent increase in milk per cow since 1975 is substantial.”  Substantial?  How about phenomenal, even miraculous?  Could a factory have increased its output by seventy-five percent in twenty-five years?  Could a weight lifter elevate that much of a weight increase in a military press as he did twenty-five years ago?  Could recombinant bovine somatotropin enter the milk supply and affect human growth and development, or even contribute to human misery?

Not only do modern agricultural techniques affect the quality of food, but also do the processes by which food is processed and packaged.  To prevent the growth of pathogenic bacteria, some canned foods are exposed to temperatures that compromise their nutritional value.  Acidic foods, like tomatoes, are excused from excessive heat because their nature does not support the growth of food poisoning bacteria.  Others are heated to temperatures high enough to destroy bacteria, yeasts, and molds that could cause foods to spoil.  Heating to 250 degrees Fahrenheit for three minutes not only kills pathogens, but also denigrates the potency of water-soluble vitamins.  If these foods are consumed without also consuming the water in which they are prepared, nutrition is sacrificed.

The USDA has a table of nutrient retention factors that compare the nutritional value of processed foods.  This table includes most nutrients from alpha-tocopherol to zinc.  It is noted that folate, for example, a nutrient easily lost in food preservation and preparation, is diminished by almost 50% in canned fruits as compared to fresh and frozen.  Additionally, canned foods are higher in sodium, and their texture is softer than either fresh or frozen.  The mineral and protein values of canned foods are usually undisturbed.  In rare instances, as with tomatoes and pumpkin, nutrient value is retained, or even increased, by canning.  We should note that canned fruits and vegetables are better than none at all.

Frozen foods, on the other hand, retain much of the nutrition they are destined to have.  The folate retention factor for frozen fruits is ninety-five, contrasted to fifty for canned.  There are some compromises, though, because frozen foods need to be blanched prior to being frozen.  Blanching, however, is no worse than what happens to foods during normal cooking activity.  This means that frozen vegetables provide levels of nutrition similar to fresh, provided they are stored and handled properly.  The “International Journal of Food Science and Technology,” reported in June of 2007 that the freezing process alone does not affect vitamin levels, but that the initial processing and later storage do.  About 25% of vitamin C and a higher percentage of folate are lost through the blanching process.  These numbers will vary according to the processing techniques.

An advantage to canned and frozen foods is that the foods themselves are harvested at their maximum stage of development, containing all the vitamins and minerals they could possibly extract from their environments.  What we call “fresh” vegetables are usually anything but.  They have been picked before their maximum ripeness so that they can be shipped across the country.  If not harvested locally, “fresh” vegetables are more accurately labeled as “raw,” or “unprocessed.”  Water-soluble vitamins, like the B complex and vitamin C, are affected by exposure to light and air.  Vitamin A is jeopardized by exposure to light, as well.  The amount of time that a raw vegetable spends in storage may take its toll on nutrient integrity, also.

Typical Maximum Nutrient Losses (as compared to raw food)
Vitamins Freeze Dry Cook Cook+Drain Reheat
Vitamin A 5% 50% 25% 35% 10%
  Retinol Activity Equivalent 5% 50% 25% 35% 10%
  Alpha Carotene 5% 50% 25% 35% 10%
  Beta Carotene 5% 50% 25% 35% 10%
  Beta Cryptoxanthin 5% 50% 25% 35% 10%
  Lycopene 5% 50% 25% 35% 10%
  Lutein+Zeaxanthin 5% 50% 25% 35% 10%
Vitamin C 30% 80% 50% 75% 50%
Thiamin 5% 30% 55% 70% 40%
Riboflavin 0% 10% 25% 45% 5%
Niacin 0% 10% 40% 55% 5%
Vitamin B6 0% 10% 50% 65% 45%
Folate 5% 50% 70% 75% 30%
  Food Folate 5% 50% 70% 75% 30%
  Folic Acid 5% 50% 70% 75% 30%
Vitamin B12 0% 0% 45% 50% 45%
Minerals Freeze Dry Cook Cook+Drain Reheat
Calcium 5% 0% 20% 25% 0%
Iron 0% 0% 35% 40% 0%
Magnesium 0% 0% 25% 40% 0%
Phosphorus 0% 0% 25% 35% 0%
Potassium 10% 0% 30% 70% 0%
Sodium 0% 0% 25% 55% 0%
Zinc 0% 0% 25% 25% 0%
Copper 10% 0% 40% 45% 0%

Can we get all the vitamins and minerals we need from food?  No.

Take a look at vitamin C, one of the most-studied nutrients.  Because of its fragile nature, vitamin C, a popular water-soluble supplement, needs special handling.  This characteristic may explain why it seems to have been a major focus of the food business for years.  It is extremely sensitive to heat, and slightly less so to light, and time.  Loss of vitamin C during processing ranges from about 10% in beets to almost 90% in carrots.  The amount of vitamin C at the start has no bearing on the outcome.  It’s the percentage that makes the matter a real concern.  Since this vitamin is easily oxidized, it is difficult to measure levels in drained liquids.  That goes for the cooking water, as well.  Canned foods are further insulted by cooking at high temperatures for a long time, without a lid.  It is nutritionally prudent to include the water from the can in the meal.  Otherwise, the ascorbic acid goes down the drain.  The table below demonstrates changes in vitamin C levels resulting from canning alone.

Ascorbic acid (g / kg−1 wet weight) in fresh and canned vegetables
Commodity Fresh Canned % Loss
Broccoli 1.12 0.18 84
Corn 0.042 0.032 0.25
Carrots 0.041 0.005 88
Green peas 0.40 0.096 73
Spinach 0.281 0.143 62
Green beans 0.163 0.048 63
Beets 0.148 0.132 10
J Sci Food Agric 87:930–944 (2007) Nutritional comparison of fresh, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables. Part 1. Vitamins C and B and phenolic compounds. Joy C Rickman, Diane M Barrett and Christine M Bruhn

 Freezing has less impact on nutrient levels than other types of processing. Because foods are harvested at their maximum maturity stage before freezing, they already contain the most nutritive value they can be expected to have. The table that follows shows losses of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) after periods of storage at various temperatures, starting at room temperature (20° C; 68° F), through the refrigerator crisper drawer (4° C; 39° F), to the freezer (-20° C; -4° F).

Losses of ascorbic acid (% dry weight) due to fresh and frozen storage
Commodity Fresh, 20 ◦C,
7 Days
Fresh, 4 ◦C,
7 Days
Frozen, −20 ◦C,
12 Months
Broccoli 56 0 10
Carrots 27 10
Green beans 55 77 20
Green peas 60 15 10
Spinach 100 75 30
J Sci Food Agric 87:930–944 (2007) Nutritional comparison of fresh, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables. Part 1. Vitamins C and B and phenolic compounds. Joy C Rickman, Diane M Barrett and Christine M Bruhn

Vitamin C does continue to degrade after long periods of freezing, but at a slower rate. What seems to be the main factor in this process is the moisture content of the food at the outset. Notice that refrigerating foods as soon as they come home from the market plays a serious role in maintaining nutritive value. The cook is the penultimate figure in the saga of a food’s life. The method of cooking can cause loss of ascorbic acid at the rate of 15% to 55%. Losses in canned products are probably minimal because the food already sits in water. Oddly, unheated canned products are occasionally comparable to that which is cooked fresh. But who has the wherewithal to determine that at home? Remember that, because vitamin C oxidizes in air, the value of frozen foods may be substantially higher than fresh foods that have been stored for a long time or under sub-optimal conditions. So…fresh (raw) may not always be the best. Whatever the case, additional research is expected to substantiate changes in vitamin C levels caused by cooking habits. Microwaving, for example, may have an unexpected influence, based on the solubility and diffusion of certain food solids, such as sugars that may diminish faster than ascorbic acid, leaving vitamin C behind.

It is necessary to realize that carrots are not exactly heralded for their vitamin C value in the first place, so losses are relatively insignificant. Also, note that sources of information may present nonconcurring results due to variations in measurement techniques, quality of raw ingredients, and other variables.

The water-soluble B vitamins (all are water-soluble) suffer a fate similar to that of ascorbic acid. Thiamin, the least stable of the vitamins to thermal indignity, is most sensitive to degradation caused by food processing. But, since fruits and vegetables are not exceptional sources of this nutrient, its retention or loss does not represent overall nutrient retention or loss of a particular food. Riboflavin is unstable in the presence of light. Processing and storage / display play a role in its stability. Clear glass containers can cause this vitamin to dwindle. Realization of this fact by the food industry is one reason that certain foods are now in opaque containers. The exception to the B-vitamin family is vitamin B12 because it is found mostly in animal products. The same considerations that apply to vitamin C are appropriate for the B vitamins.

The normal eating habits of Americans suggest that we are woefully inadequate in meeting dietary recommendations to achieve optimum well-being and health.  Most of us do not eat the recommended number of daily servings of fruits and vegetables.  For some nutrients, daily intake needs may be higher for some populations than for others, especially those in particularly vulnerable groups, such as those with gastrointestinal problems or poor absorption, those who are chronically ill, those who are alcohol or drug dependent, and the elderly.

The June 19, 2002 edition of the “Journal of the American Medical Association” recanted that august body’s negative position on vitamin supplements when it advised all adults to take at least one multivitamin tablet a day.  The article, “Vitamins for Chronic Disease Prevention in Adults,” authored by Robert H. Fletcher, MD, MSc, and others, agreed that suboptimal levels of folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12 are a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, neural tube defects, and colon and breast cancers.  It added that risks for other chronic diseases are increased by low levels of the antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E.

Because it is accepted that high homocysteine levels are associated with increased risk of heart disease, the AMA’s recommendation for optimal levels of cardio-specific supplements are well founded.

Depending on a person’s physiological state, he or she may need more of a particular nutrient than is available from a multivitamin alone.  The bioavailability of a specific nutrient from a high quality supplement is close to one hundred percent, compared to a food whose life experiences might have been less than ideal.  In a society that falls short of consuming the five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables that are recommended, it would be inane to ask them to eat more fruits and vegetables to get the nutrients they lack.

This does not mean that a person should take a little of this and a little of that because he read about it somewhere.  On the contrary, supplementation with vitamins, minerals, and herbs is a scientific enterprise that entails one’s medical history, both distant and recent past, one’s current physiological state, and even one’s blood chemistry.

Do you take vitamins?

*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.
These products are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease.

Flu and Vitamin D3

Flu and Vitamin DIn a sequestered environment such as a classroom or dormitory, influenza can evoke concerns that are more than just casual. It has been noted by scientists and physicians that seasonal variations in ultraviolet radiation from the sun parallel the outbreak of the flu. The more obvious the sun’s activity, the less pronounced are viral infections. The converse is also true. Places at high latitudes do not receive enough sunlight to help the body produce vitamin D, known for its ability to cause an immune response to pathogens.

Studies performed in Norway, at the Institute for Cancer Research at Oslo University Hospital, in 2010, stated definitively that, “Seasonal variations in ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation cause seasonal variations in vitamin D status.”  Immune response and seasonal influenza infection were directly related to vitamin D levels.  This conclusion was drawn from weekly records that monitored the number of influenza cases and flu-related deaths in Sweden, Norway, the United States, Singapore, and Japan in light of concomitant changes in UVB strength. Results of this study indicated that, “…influenzas mostly occur in the winter season in temperate regions,” adding that, “…at high latitudes very little, if any, vitamin D is produced in the skin during the winter.”  (Juzeniene. 2010)

Vitamin D deficiency is related to other matters besides the flu, including some cancers, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, autism, and a host of others. (Cannell. 2008)  This pro-hormone has been produced by life forms since the Creation, and is vital to the growth and development of the organism, from gestation to the grave.  Of the common forms, D2 and D3, the latter is more biologically significant, since it is the one made by the skin in response to sunlight exposure.  The supplement is usually derived from either lanolin or cod liver oil.  This—D3— is the form that should be used to treat deficit.  The former, D2, comes from fungal sources by activating ergosterol with UV light, and is not naturally present in humans.  Synthetic, Rx forms are also available.

After being formed in the skin, vitamin D is converted into two different substances in the body. 25-hydroxyvitamin D (calcidiol) is the main storage form made by the liver.  1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D (calcitriol) is the most potent human steroid in the body, usually made in the kidneys. Calcitriol levels should not be used to determine vitamin D status.

Japanese research looked into seasonal flu among school children, from December 2008 to March 2009, and found that those who had not been taking vitamin D3 supplements were considerably more likely to get the flu than those who did supplement. Asthma sufferers experienced fewer exacerbations if they supplemented with the vitamin. (Urashima. 2010)

The sun has an eleven-year cycle during which its radiation level waxes or wanes.  Discovered in the 1840’s by Samuel Schwabe, the cycle can change the amount of UVB light reaching the earth by as much as 400%, more than enough to influence vitamin D stores.  The hypothesis that flu pandemics are associated with solar control of vitamin D levels has been developed and accepted. (Hayes. 2010)  Part of this is based on vitamin D’s ability to help the body make an innate antimicrobial peptide called cathelicidin, which depends upon vitamin D levels of 40 – 70 nanograms per milliliter.  (Cannell)  European researchers believe that the economic burden of the flu on that continent could be reduced by 187 billion euros a year by supplementing with 2000-3000 IU of vitamin D a day.  (Grant. 2009)  Food fortification, artificial UVB, and, of course, supplements are practical options when the sun is unable to do what we expect.


Int J Infect Dis. 2010 Dec;14(12):e1099-105. Epub 2010 Oct 29. The seasonality of pandemic and non-pandemic influenzas: the roles of solar radiation and vitamin D. Juzeniene A, Ma LW, Kwitniewski M, Polev GA, Lagunova Z, Dahlback A, Moan J.

Department of Radiation Biology, Institute for Cancer Research, the Norwegian Radium Hospital, Oslo University Hospital, Montebello, N-0310 Oslo, Norway.

Altern Med Rev. 2008 Mar;13(1):6-20.
Use of vitamin D in clinical practice.
Cannell JJ, Hollis BW.

Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 May;91(5):1255-60. Epub 2010 Mar 10.
Randomized trial of vitamin D supplementation to prevent seasonal influenza A in schoolchildren.
Urashima M, Segawa T, Okazaki M, Kurihara M, Wada Y, Ida H.

Medical Hypotheses. Volume 74, Issue 5, May 2010, Pages 831-834
Influenza pandemics, solar activity cycles, and vitamin D Daniel P. Hayes

Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology. 99(2-1); Feb-May 2009: 104-113
Estimated benefit of increased vitamin Dnext term status in reducing the economic burden of disease in western Europe William B. Grant, Heide S. Cross, Cedric F. Garland, et al

Journal of Clinical Virology Volume 50, Issue 3, March 2011, Pages 194-200
Vitamin D and the anti-viral state Jeremy A. Beard, Allison Bearden, and Rob Striker

Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics
Article in Press, Corrected Proof – Received 15 October 2010; revised 25 February 2011; accepted 28 February 2011. Available online 1 April 2011.
Vitamin D: drug of the future. A new therapeutic approach N. Gueli, W. Verrusioa, A. Linguanti, F. Di Maio, A. Martinez, B. Marigliano and M. Cacciafesta

FASEB J. 2005 Jul;19(9):1067-77.
Human cathelicidin antimicrobial peptide (CAMP) gene is a direct target of the vitamin D receptor and is strongly up-regulated in myeloid cells by 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3. Gombart AF, Borregaard N, Koeffler HP

*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.
These products are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease.

Hydration: How much do you need?

waterWe have been counseled to drink eight, 8-ounce glasses of water a day (8 x 8) for such a long time that the advice has become unwritten law…and slavishly followed at that. This chant started so long ago that most people have no idea of its origin. At the same time, we are cautioned not to count alcohol and coffee as hydration elements. The science behind the recommendation is so scant that little support can be given to the exhortation, yet the possession of a water bottle is ubiquitous. It is possible that this idea is the result of misinterpretation or misreading of a notion proposed by the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Research Council that recommended one milliliter of water for every calorie consumed. The neglected fact is that there is water in our food. That would surely separate liquid intake from total dietary intake.

Dr. Heinz Valtin, a medical professor at Dartmouth, examined this mantra earlier in this century, and learned, “No scientific studies were found in support of 8 x 8.”  After reviewing surveys of food and fluid intake on thousands of adults of both genders, Dr. Valtin stated that, “…such large amounts (of water) are not needed because the surveyed persons were presumably healthy and certainly not overtly ill.”  He added that most other kinds of beverages, including soft drinks and coffee, contribute to one’s daily need for hydration, continuing that a considerable body of evidence supports the premise that the human body is fully capable of maintaining proper water balance.  But all this must be tempered with the qualifier, “in healthy persons.”  He leaves us with, “…large intakes of fluid, equal to and greater than 8 x 8, are advisable for the treatment or prevention of some diseases and certainly are called for under special circumstances, such as vigorous work and exercise, especially in hot climates.”  In the spirit of open-mindedness, Dr. Valtin asks that readers submit their own findings to him.

Including the 20% supplied by foods, the Institute of Medicine recommends a fluid intake of about 91 ounces a day for women and 125 ounces for men.  Do you know how much water is in your food?  Few of us do. The puzzling thing about this recommendation is the lack of sufficient data available on water metabolism in adults, especially those who are sedentary and living in a temperate environment.  Most of us take in more than that suggested level, when we account for comestibles, although the geriatric populace is apt to take in less of both food and liquid water, partly because of insensitivity to a thirst stimulus and partly because of a waning ability to taste foods and beverages as well as they did in their early years.  It appears that older men drink less than their younger counterparts, but excrete more urine.  Differences in women have shown to be insignificant, but contribute to the notion that, “water turnover is highly variable among individuals…”  (Raman et al. 2004)

Admittedly, older adults are at greater risk for dehydration, but water balance in this population had not been faithfully studied until Purdue University picked up the reins in 2005, and compared/contrasted water intake/output and total balance of fluids in an older population (63-81 y.o.) and a younger one (23-46 y.o.), finding that, in fat-free mass, there is little difference.  The study noted, though, that fat-free mass was lower in the elderly and that fat-free hydration was significantly higher.  Considering that the elderly have less muscle to begin with, this is simple to follow.  (Bossingham. 2005)

Many people complain that, if they increase water intake, they will spend more time in the lavatory.  While this is the case with many of us, there is a limiting factor—time.  The period of time over which a specific amount of water is consumed makes a difference in when the urge to evacuate that water will arise.  The faster you drink that glass of water, the sooner you will need to excrete it.  The longer the glass lasts, the more time there will be prior to evacuation.  “A water diuresis occurs when a large volume of water is ingested rapidly.”  (Shafiee. 2005)   Also note that water mixed with a poorly absorbed sugar (not glucose) will retard absorption and delay excretion.

The kidneys can process almost four gallons of water a day.  Too much water will make you sick because sodium stores will become depleted and electrolyte activity will be sorely jeopardized.  Drinking over a period of time can thwart this threat.  You need not measure urine output to figure out how much fluid to replace.  That is something you can eyeball.  Thirst should not be the barometer by which fluid need is determined.  While there is no absolute proof that we all need 8 x 8, have a glass of water even when you are not thirsty, working in the heat, or running a marathon.  To prevent electrolyte displacement, we might consider electrolyte replacement in at least a couple of our glasses.


Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. November 2002; vol. 283 no. 5: R993-R1004
“Drink at least eight glasses of water a day.” Really? Is there scientific evidence for “8 × 8”? Heinz Valtin and (With the Technical Assistance of Sheila A. Gorman)

Am J Physiol Renal Physiol. 2004 Feb; 286(2):F394-401. Epub 2003 Nov 4.
Water turnover in 458 American adults 40-79 yr of age. Raman A, Schoeller DA, Subar AF, Troiano RP, Schatzkin A, Harris T, Bauer D, Bingham SA, Everhart JE, Newman AB, Tylavsky FA.
Department of Nutritional Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin 53706, USA.

Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Jun; 81(6):1342-50.
Water balance, hydration status, and fat-free mass hydration in younger and older adults. Bossingham MJ, Carnell NS, Campbell WW.
Department of Foods and Nutrition, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907, USA.

Kidney Int. 2005 Feb;67(2):613-21.
Defining conditions that lead to the retention of water: the importance of the arterial sodium concentration. Shafiee MA, Charest AF, Cheema-Dhadli S, Glick DN, Napolova O, Roozbeh J, Semenova E, Sharman A, Halperin ML.

Renal Division, St. Michael’s Hospital, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2000 Sep;279(3):R966-73.
Effects of time of day, gender, and menstrual cycle phase on the human response to a water load. Claybaugh JR, Sato AK, Crosswhite LK, Hassell LH.

Department of Clinical Investigation, Tripler Army Medical Center, Tripler Army Medical Center, Hawaii 96859 – 5000.

Eur J Clin Nutr. 2010 Feb;64(2):115-23. Epub 2009 Sep 2.
Water as an essential nutrient: the physiological basis of hydration. Jéquier E, Constant F.
Department of Physiology, University of Lausanne, Pully, Switzerland.

J Am Soc Nephrol 19: 1041-1043, 2008
Just Add Water
Dan Negoianu and Stanley Goldfarb

Renal, Electrolyte, and Hypertension Division, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.
These products are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease.