Do You Wash Your Produce? Why?

washing produce, e. coliIn his June 11, 2011 column for Newsmax Health (www.newsmaxhealth.com), 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
(mg)
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
(mg)
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.

References

MAIN ABSTRACT
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. [email protected]

SUPPORTING ABSTRACTS
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.

References

MAIN ABSTRACT
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)

SUPPORTING ABSTRACTS
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. [email protected]

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. [email protected]

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.

Diet Soda is Not A Free Ride

diet soda & weight gainThere is little doubt that obesity in America is on the upswing. Lots of people think that an artificially-sweetened beverage can offset the poor dietary decisions to which they have become accustomed. There has been established a relationship between non-sugar sweeteners and weight gain based on physiological responses to the message of satiety and the perceived need to consume more calories to achieve it. While the perception of sweet taste is supposed to satisfy appetite, the calculated deception to the body just might boomerang and call off all bets.

In the San Antonio Heart Study that ran from 1979 to 1988, researchers examined the association of artificially sweetened beverages with long-term weight gain, and found that, “A significant positive dose-response relationship emerged between baseline ASB (artificially sweetened beverage) consumption and all outcome measures…”  These outcome measures included overweight / obesity, weight gain, and changes in body mass index (BMI).  As with most nutrition research, considerations were made for demographics and behavioral characteristics.  Drinking more than twenty-one ASB’s a week had the most impact, with “…almost double risk of overweight / obesity among 1,250 baseline normal-weight individuals.”  For those with a body mass index already elevated, the changes were more pronounced.  This report concluded with, “These findings raise the question whether AS (artificial sweetener) use might be fueling—rather than fighting—our escalating obesity epidemic.”

That last sentence from the San Antonio Heart Study is quite the incrimination, would you say?
Diet soft drinks have long been thought to be healthier alternatives to their sugary counterparts, but reports like this one have linked increased incidence of weight gain, metabolic syndrome, and even diabetes to frequent intake of diet soft drinks.  Keep in mind, though, that all studies in all areas of health care are subject to scrutiny and critique.    Regardless of the topic, there are always two—or more—sides.  But here it may have been discovered that fooling the body is the instigator behind the concern.

When the body is told that something sweet has been ingested, it launches the production of insulin to carry the sweet to the cells to be burned for energy.  By the time the body finds out that there really is no sugar to be burned—in the form of glucose—the insulin has already been sent on its way to work.  Now the insulin has to find something to do, so it initiates a signal that says, “Feed me.  I need to carry glucose.”  That arouses hunger.  What do we grab for immediate satisfaction?  Carbohydrates, the simpler, the better.  Most of them spike glucose rapidly, which, if it fails to get burned for energy, is stored as fat.  It now appears that a lack of exercise becomes part of the equation.

There’s another tack to look at.  Some artificial sweeteners are alleged to block the brain’s production of serotonin, the neurotransmitter that controls mood, learning, sleep, and…appetite.  When the body experiences low levels of serotonin—and that can affect depressed mood—it seeks foods that can bring the levels back up.   Those foods happen to be the ones that will also bring the belt size up. Real sugar, of course, provides empty calories that can also cause weight gain as excessive energy intake.  But a weight conscious public does what it thinks is right.

Sweet taste enhances appetite.  Aspartame-sweetened water, for example, increased subjective hunger ratings when compared to glucose-sweetened water.  (Yang. 2010)  Other artificial sweeteners were associated with heightened motivation to eat, with more items selected on a food preference list. (Blundell. 1986)  This suggests that the calories in natural sweeteners trigger a response to keep overall energy intake constant, and that inconsistent coupling between sweet taste and actual caloric content can lead to compensatory overeating and consequential positive energy balance.  (This means that more energy came into the body than went out.)  People associate taste with calorie content.  You can tell that a crème brulee has more calories than the eggs from which it is made, but you’d probably eat more of it if made with artificial sweetener than with cane sugar.

Humans have a hedonic component.  We like those things that appeal to the senses and activate our food reward pathways.  That contributes to appetite increase.  But artificial sweeteners fail to provide completeness.  Unsweetening the American diet over the long haul, a little at a time, might just do the trick.  After all, it seems to work with salt.

References

MAIN ABSTRACT
Obesity (2008) 16(8), 1894–1900.
Fueling the Obesity Epidemic? Artificially Sweetened Beverage Use and Long-term Weight Gain Sharon P. Fowler, Ken Williams, Roy G. Resendez, Kelly J. Hunt, Helen P. Hazuda and Michael P. Stern

SUPPORTING ABSTRACTS
Diabetes Care. 2009 Apr;32(4):688-94. Epub 2009 Jan 16.
Diet soda intake and risk of incident metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). Nettleton JA, Lutsey PL, Wang Y, Lima JA, Michos ED, Jacobs DR Jr.
SourceDivision of Epidemiology, University of Texas Health Sciences Center, Houston, Texas, USA. [email protected]

Physiol Behav. 2010 Apr 26;100(1):55-62. Epub 2010 Jan 6.
High-intensity sweeteners and energy balance.
Swithers SE, Martin AA, Davidson TL.

SourceDepartment of Psychological Sciences, Purdue University, 703 Third Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907, United States. [email protected]

Yale J Biol Med. 2010 June; 83(2): 101–108.
Gain weight by “going diet?” Artificial sweeteners and the neurobiology of sugar cravings
Neuroscience 2010
Qing Yang

The Lancet, Volume 327, Issue 8489, 10 May 1986, Pages 1092-1093
PARADOXICAL EFFECTS OF AN INTENSE SWEETENER (ASPARTAME) ON APPETITE J. E. Blundell, A. J. Hill

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

Salt May Not Be As Bad As They Say…Or Is It?

regulate salt intakeUsing a sufficiently large set of data, the Cochrane Library, a highly respected international collaboration of evidence-based medicine reviews, was able to draw startling conclusions about the association of salt intake with high blood pressure and cardiovascular risks. After looking at almost 6,500 people, comprising several well-conducted studies, Cochrane found that, for CVD mortality and all-cause mortality in persons with normal or elevated blood pressure, there is no strong evidence for restricting salt intake.

The American Journal of Hypertension reported Cochrane’s findings in July of 2011, stating that, “Although meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials of salt reduction report a reduction in the level of blood pressure, the effect of reduced dietary salt on cardiovascular disease events remains unclear.”  However, it was also found that salt reduction “was associated with reductions in urinary salt excretion…and reductions in systolic blood pressure between 1 and 4 mm Hg.”  Additionally, relative risk did not show evidence of any effect of salt reduction on cardiovascular episodes in people with normal BP, but noted that, “salt restriction increased the risk of all-cause mortality in those with heart failure.”

The Cochrane reviewers admitted that, despite collecting more data than ever before, there is still no definitive proof that salt reduction will have beneficial effects on all-cause mortality or on the risk of cardiovascular disease.  At the same time, Katherine Jenner, campaign director of the Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH), disputes these findings, adding that there are no trials to account for other chronic exposures, such as smoking and being overweight, and eating too few fruits and vegetables.  She stated strongly that it would be unethical to expose humans to a long period of high salt intake merely to satisfy the curiosity of researchers.  To add to this confusion, the Cochrane leader, Rod Taylor, said that large benefits were not seen because salt reduction was sufficiently minimal as to cloud significant effects on BP and heart disease.  Huh?

Prior to the development of refrigeration, salt was necessary for the preservation of food.  Milk was made into cheese using salt, and fish was salted to keep it for long periods.  Eating as we do, many of us accumulate more salt and water than the kidneys can handle.  Some folks have genes that control cellular channels, enzymes and hormones at various places in the kidneys, conserving salt to enable adaptation to hot and dry climates.  If water and salt were scarce, as would often be the case in mankind’s early days, the kidney would conserve salt to hold the water that would become sweat, which would evaporate from the skin and cool the body enough to keep temperature stable.  Without sweat the body would overheat.  These genes that were important to early mankind never stopped doing their job, regardless of climate.  About 20% of us will continue to reabsorb salt as long as excessive amounts are ingested.  Salt retains water through osmosis.  It also promotes thirst.  Why else would there be a bowl of salty pretzels or nuts on the bar?

Excess salt keeps circulatory volume higher than it needs to be, putting extra fluid pressure on blood vessel walls.  The walls react to this stress by getting thicker and narrower, leaving less space for the fluid already cramped inside, thereby raising resistance to flow and increasing the pressure needed to get it moving.  Because the heart has to pump against greater pressure, it can grow larger, just like the skeletal muscles subjected to heavy pressure from lifting weights.  Whatever excess pressure is exerted on the kidneys causes those organs to compromise their delicate filtration system, leading to disease.

Beyond reducing blood pressure, a low sodium intake improves the dilation of the blood vessels and consequently improves heart function.  Dilation of blood vessels is considerably greater in a low-sodium environment. (Dickinson. 2009)  Systolic pressure will drop, as well.

At a time when the U.S. advocates lowering salt intake from 2,300 mg a day to 1,500 mg a day, the Europeans are happy to see their intake lowered to 5,000 mg a day.  Considering that the typical European intake seems to be around 9,000 to 12,000 mg a day, that is quite a change.  Naturally, they would see a drop in blood pressure.  (He and Burnier. 2011)  Salt sensitivity is subjective, though, and not everyone would have a BP spike because of intake.

But now there might just be way to help control salt-induced blood pressure elevation. Researchers at Loyola University, under the direction of Dr. Paul Whelton, learned that the ratio of sodium to potassium is a more important indicator of cardiovascular problems than either salt or potassium alone.  (Whelton and Cook. 2009)  Little studied, potassium is the element on the other side of the cell membrane from sodium. Most of us are potassium deficient, consuming far less than the 4,700 mg a day that is suggested. The recommended 9 to 13 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, the most reliable sources of this mineral, is uncommon in the contemporary diet.  A high sodium to potassium ratio can be predictive of future coronary episodes; a low one, the opposite.  In his study, Dr. Whelton says that 2,300 milligrams should be the maximum sodium intake a day for those less than 30 years old, half that for those who are older.

Sodium is not salt, and salt is not sodium. About 40% of salt is sodium, the remainder being chloride, the chemical of which stomach acid is made.

For some of us, salt might be off the hook. For others of us, it might be a gremlin. It can be hidden in frozen dinners, some cereals, vegetable juice, canned vegetables and soups, sauces and marinades, snacks, and condiments. Potassium, on the other hand, is friendly to all. Jing Chen and his colleagues agree. (Chen. 2008)

References

MAIN ABSTRACT
Am J Hypertens. 2011 Jul 6. doi: 10.1038/ajh.2011.115. [Epub ahead of print]
Reduced Dietary Salt for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials (Cochrane Review). Taylor RS, Ashton KE, Moxham T, Hooper L, Ebrahim S.

Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2011, Issue 7.
Reduced dietary salt for the prevention of cardiovascular disease.
Taylor RS, Ashton KE, Moxham T, Hooper L, Ebrahim S.

SUPPORTING ABSTRACTS
Am J Clin Nutr February 2009 vol. 89 no. 2 485-490
Effects of a low-salt diet on flow-mediated dilatation in humans
Kacie M Dickinson, Jennifer B Keogh, Peter M Clifton

Arch Intern Med. 2008;168(16):1740-1746.
Association Between Blood Pressure Responses to the Cold Pressor Test and Dietary Sodium Intervention in a Chinese Population
Jing Chen, MD, MSc; Dongfeng Gu, MD, MSc; Cashell E. Jaquish, PhD; et al

Arch Intern Med. 2009;169(1):32-40.
Joint Effects of Sodium and Potassium Intake on Subsequent Cardiovascular Disease
The Trials of Hypertension Prevention Follow-up Study
Nancy R. Cook, ScD; Eva Obarzanek, PhD; Jeffrey A. Cutler, MD; Julie E. Buring, ScD; Kathryn M. Rexrode, MD; Shiriki K. Kumanyika, PhD; Lawrence J. Appel, MD; Paul K. Whelton, MD

Eur Heart J. 2011 Jun 23. [Epub ahead of print]
Nutrition in cardiovascular disease: salt in hypertension and heart failure.
He FJ, Burnier M, Macgregor GA.

Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London, Charterhouse Square, London EC1M 6BQ, UK.

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

The Eyes Have It

fidoglassesDiet is vital to preservation of vision as we age. Some people have a higher risk of losing central vision than others—based partly on genetics—but that can be postponed or prevented by consuming sufficient levels of certain dietary nutrients. Clinicians are advised to provide dietary counsel especially to young persons who are susceptible to the vision-disabling consequences that accompany the genetic variations responsible for early onset of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). That gene is officially termed “complement factor H,” abbreviated to CFH. Researchers in the Netherlands tested more than two thousand individuals over age 55 for genetic susceptibility to AMD by way of the CFH gene. The subjects were followed for more than a decade, receiving eye exams every three years to learn who suffered from vision deterioration or loss. Careful, detailed dietary intake records were kept, and eating habits were monitored. The risk reduction ascribed to specific nutrients was associated with normal dietary intake.

Genetic variations can increase the risk of early age-related macular degeneration.  Using food frequency questionnaires and genetic testing, researchers at the Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands (Ho and van Leeuwen. 2011) evaluated biological interactions among risk factors for ARM, and found distinct relationships “…between CFH Y402H and zinc, beta-carotene, lutein/zeaxanthin, and eicosapentaenoic/docosahexaenoic acid (EPA/DHA)…”  Subjects with dietary intake of zinc in the highest third “…reduced their hazard ratio of early AMD…” by more than 40%.  Intakes of beta-carotene, lutein/zeaxanthin, and EPA/DHA reduced risk by more than a third.  Drs. Ho and van Leeuwen concluded their report with,”High dietary intake of nutrients with antioxidant properties reduces the risk of early AMD in those at high genetic risk.”

COMMENTARY
AMD is a disease that affects the macula, the most important part of the retina and an area that has a very high concentration of photoreceptors, responsible for central vision.  Nerve fibers in the macula coalesce with neighboring fibers to form the optic nerve, the “cable” that connects the eye to the brain.  The health of our eyes depends on the health of the cardiovascular and nervous systems.  The retina and surrounding structures are filled with blood vessels that depend on a healthy cardiovascular system.

The link between vision and diet has been recognized for a considerable time.  In 2006, a study funded by the Agricultural Research Service and reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition  found a relationship between a high glycemic-index (GI) diet and AMD.  The glycemic index is a ranking of foods based on their elevation of blood glucose after ingestion, compared to a reference food such as white bread or glucose.  These scientists suggested a direct relationship of glycemic index to eye disease.  Study participants whose diets contained the highest GI foods also had the highest amount of macular pigment abnormalities, which is an early indicator of macular degeneration.  (Chiu. 2006)  It seems prudent, therefore, to limit or completely avoid foods that are high in starches and sugars, particularly sugars that are added, as found in processed foods, sweets, and the like.

Addressing the nutrients mentioned in the Ho and van Leeuwen study, zinc is already a necessary trace mineral, in that it is a component of several enzymes and brings vitamin A from the liver to the retina in order to produce melanin, a protective pigment of the eye.  Zinc is heavily concentrated in the eye, mostly in the retina and the choroid, the vascular tissue beneath the retina.  Food sources include red meats, beans, nuts (almonds), whole grains, shellfish (oysters), and fortified foods.

Lutein and zeaxanthin are nutrients found in green leafy vegetables and eggs, as well as in other foods.  There’s more reason to eat your spinach than merely to be like Popeye. These two compounds have identical chemical formulas, and are thus called isomers of each other. (The arrangement of atoms is slightly different.)  Many studies have related these substances to the prevention of AMD as well as cataracts.  Of all the carotenoids found in nature, these are in the greatest amounts in the eye, where they absorb the blue light that can cause oxidative damage.  They have to come from food, so we advise that you get the darkest greens you can find, including spinach, kale, collards, and turnip greens.  Squash, pumpkin, corn, Brussels sprouts, peas, carrots, and green beans are other vegetable sources.  The fruits include citrus.

Lack of vitamin A may cause might blindness, dry eyes, eye infections, skin problems and slowed growth.  Beta-carotene is a compound that can be converted by the body to vitamin A.  The need for vitamin A in vision was identified almost a hundred years ago.  Foods that contain beta-carotene or vitamin A include dark green leaves, and the yellow-orange groups, such as cantaloupe, pumpkin, yellow squashes, and others.  In the eye, beta-carotene becomes retinaldehyde, also called retinal, and is bound to a protein called opsin, which resides in the rods and cones.  This combination helps to carry electrical energy along the optic nerve to the brain.  Night blindness, by the way, is actually poor adaptation to low-light situations.

The essential fatty acids, in this case EPA and DHA, must come from the diet.  They maintain integrity of the nervous system, and help to prevent inflammation and arteriosclerosis, a noted enemy of vision.  One result of arteriosclerosis is a decrease in nutrients to the eye and a reduction in the removal of waste materials.  EPA and DHA also aid in the reduction of dry eyes.  It is well-known that oily fish are the best food sources of these essential fats, though supplements are available.

Oh, yeah.  You never see a rabbit wearing glasses.  Eat your carrots.

References

MAIN ABSTRACT
Arch Ophthalmol. June 2011;129(6):758-766.
Reducing the Genetic Risk of Age-Related Macular Degeneration With Dietary Antioxidants, Zinc, and {omega}-3 Fatty Acids
The Rotterdam Study
Lintje Ho, MD, MPH, MSc; Redmer van Leeuwen, MD, PhD; Jacqueline C. M. Witteman, PhD; Cornelia M. van Duijn, PhD; André G. Uitterlinden, PhD; Albert Hofman, MD, PhD; Paulus T. V. M. de Jong, MD, PhD, FRCOphth; Johannes R. Vingerling, MD, PhD; Caroline C. W. Klaver, MD, PhD

SUPPORTING ABSTRACTS
Semin Ophthalmol. 2011 May;26(3):192-7.
Inflammation and Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD).
Telander DG.

Department of Ophthalmology and Vision Science, University of California Davis Medical Center, Sacramento, CA, USA.

Arch Ophthalmol. 2007 Mar;125(3):300-5.
High-sensitivity C-reactive protein, other markers of inflammation, and the incidence of macular degeneration in women.
Schaumberg DA, Christen WG, Buring JE, Glynn RJ, Rifai N, Ridker PM.

Division of Preventive Medicine, 900 Commonwealth Ave E, Boston, MA 02215, USA. [email protected]

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 83, No. 4, 880-886, April 2006
Dietary glycemic index and carbohydrate in relation to early age-related macular degeneration
Chung-Jung Chiu, Larry D Hubbard, Jane Armstrong, Gail Rogers, Paul F Jacques, Leo T Chylack, Jr, Susan E Hankinson, Walter C Willett and Allen Taylor

Pol Merkur Lekarski. 2011 Apr;30(178):241-5.
[Vascular complications in patients with metabolic syndrome].      [Article in Polish]
Kowalski J, Sliwczyńska-Rodziewicz D, Ciećwierz J, Kowalczyk E, Pawlicki L, Irzmański R, Mejer A, Szadkowska I, Barylski M.

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

Vitamin D & The Brain

Vitamin D DeficiencyVitamin D deficiency has hit an epidemic level. Not only are intakes devastatingly low, but also exposure to the sun has become increasingly limited for fear of contracting skin cancer. In his June 23, 1011, newsletter at Newsmax Health, Dr.Russell Blaylock educates his readers when he states that vitamin D3 is actually a hormone rather than a vitamin, and that a deficit of this compound may result in undesirable consequences in the brain, including depression.

Dr.Blaylock is a renowned neurosurgeon with a keen desire for people to take some control over their own health.  He implies that supplemental vitamin D3, “…lowers risk of infections, which would reduce the incidence of brain inflammation.”   He adds that research can place behavioral disorders in the lap of vitamin D deficiency, and  suggests that all of us get a vitamin D blood-level test to find out where we stand, noting that current accepted values are too low to be any benefit.   About the conditions, Dr. Blaylock says, “…depression, anxiety, panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorder, suicide risk, and even criminal behavior…can be traced to chronic brain inflammation.”  The good doctor would like to see blood vitamin D levels between 70 and 100 nanograms per milliliter.  That means that most of us need to take at least 2000 IU of vitamin D3 a day, with as much as 10,000 IU for severe deficiency.

The body needs cholesterol to make vitamin D from the sun’s ultra-violet radiation.  When the resulting chemical mix gets to the liver it becomes vitamin D3, the active form of the hormone, which the body uses to help maintain bone integrity, to increase neuromuscular function, and to modulate the immune system.  There has been considerable support over the past decade for the role of vitamin D in brain development and function.  It was noted by Kesby and colleagues at Australia’s Queensland Brain Institute that, “…this vitamin is actually a neuroactive steroid that acts on brain development, leading to alterations in brain neurochemistry and adult brain function.”  (Kesby. 2011)  Deficiencies have been related to depression, as well as to Parkinson’s disease and cognitive decline.

Of particular interest to American researchers at the U. of South Carolina is the relationship of vitamin D deficit to postpartum depression as one of the several mood disorders studied in 2010.  Using a moderate sample size at the outset, scientists found that low levels of vitamin D are associated with increased postpartum depression, as measured by evaluation on the Edinburgh Postpartum Depression Scale. (Murphy. 2010)  Even though larger studies are encouraged, the outcomes are likely to be the similar.

When the immune system abandons its competence because of nutritional deficit, inflammation ensues, often with a mighty wrath.  Such is the case with deficit of vitamin D in various maladies that include diabetes and multiple sclerosis, as well as depression.  Depression is a family affair characterized by feelings of hopelessness, despair, anxiety, irritability and restlessness.  Depression understandably accompanies degenerative disease, in part by the hopelessness is may engender.  If vitamin D is able to address depression, might it also be able to help get a handle on these conditions?   Whatever the cause of vitamin D deficiency, levels lower than 30 nanograms per milliliter have been associated with heart disease, type 2 diabetes, infectious diseases, autoimmune disorders, and neurological conditions. (Nimitphong. 2011)

References

MAIN ABSTRACT
Dr. Blaylock
Up Vitamin D3 for Your Brain
Thursday, June 23, 2011 10:11 AM

SUPPORTING ABSTRACTS
Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2011 Jun 1. [Epub ahead of print]
The effects of vitamin D on brain development and adult brain function.
Kesby JP, Eyles DW, Burne TH, McGrath JJ.

Source Queensland Brain Institute, University of Queensland, St. Lucia, Qld 4076, Australia.

J Am Psychiatr Nurses Assoc. 2010 May;16(3):170-7.
An exploratory study of postpartum depression and vitamin d.
Murphy PK, Mueller M, Hulsey TC, Ebeling MD, Wagner CL.

SourceMedical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC, USA, [email protected]

Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2011 Jan;14(1):7-14.
Vitamin D, neurocognitive functioning and immunocompetence.
Nimitphong H, Holick MF.

SourceSection of Endocrinology, Diabetes, Nutrition, Department of Medicine, Boston University Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

Acta Psychiatr Scand. 2011 Apr 12. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0447.2011.01705.x. [Epub ahead of print]
D’ for depression: any role for vitamin D?: ‘Food for Thought’ II.
Parker G, Brotchie H.

SourceSchool of Psychiatry, University of New South Wales, and Black Dog Institute, Randwick, Sydney, NSW, Australia.

Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2011 Jun;215(4):733-7. Epub 2011 Jan 29.
Exploring the relationship between vitamin D and basic personality traits.
Ubbenhorst A, Striebich S, Lang F, Lang UE.

SourceDepartment of Physiology, University of Tuebingen, Gmelinstr. 5, 72076, Tuebingen, Germany.

FASEB J. 2008 Apr;22(4):982-1001. Epub 2007 Dec 4.
Is there convincing biological or behavioral evidence linking vitamin D deficiency to brain dysfunction?
McCann JC, Ames BN.

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

ADHD and Magnesium

Magnesium deficiencyMagnesium deficiency has been reported in children with ADHD syndrome.  Signs of this malady include hyperactivity, hypermotivity with aggressiveness, and lack of attention, especially at school.  Biochemical and concurrent behavioral improvements have been realized by magnesium therapy in association with vitamin B6 supplementation.

An analysis of eighteen different study groups performed by Marianne Moussain-Bosc and her colleagues at a French institute for nervous system studies in 2006 indicated that ,”…B6/magnesium therapy benefits about half of autistic children,” but also noted that a related study showed benefits to those with ADHD, using the same doses of each supplement.  Children ranging from one to ten years of age “…received 0.6 milligrams per kilogram per day of vitamin B6 and 6 milligrams per kilogram per day of magnesium.  Treatment lasted an average of eight months.”  (Moussain-Bosc. 2006)   Both groups of children had significantly lower values of erythrocyte magnesium at the outset than the control group(s).  It was observed that after two months of the vitamin-mineral regimen there was a substantial change in clinical symptoms.

ADD and ADHD are on the upswing, and have been for some time.  Both conditions are hastily treated with drugs, often without a differential diagnosis, which is essentially a process of elimination.  Instead, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of Mental Disorders criteria, and a series of observations and teacher questionnaires are employed.  (Pediatrics. 2000. No authors listed.)   Mineral and electrolyte imbalances are awfully hard to discover with that technique, don’t you think? Most parents wince at the thought of dosing their kids with “miracle” substances that have unknown long-term side effects. On the other hand, the clueless, self-centered, entitled faction applauds the quiet, calm, relatively immobile zombie of the house.

Although we live in plentiful times, where food, shelter, and clothing are accessible to all who earn them, there still exist children who are seriously shy of their required magnesium stores.  One reason is stress.  The number of stressors to which kids are exposed grows every year.  From sports practice, to violence in the streets and on television, to academic obligations, to peer pressure and self-image, and more, the kids are overloaded.  It’s the accompanying flood of adrenaline that siphons magnesium, since that hormone needs the mineral for its release.  Another reason is poor nutrition.  You know, processed foods, refined sugars, colorful and flavorful additives, artificial this and that…  This kind of diet is notoriously low in magnesium, which is calming to the nervous system.  The refined sugars and additives actually stress the body, especially the nervous system, as it tries to overcome the onslaught.  A double whammy.

In Poland, researchers studied ADHD children and assessed the value of magnesium supplementation on the DSM parameters, finding that six months of taking as little as 200 mg a day yielded a decrease in symptoms.  (Starobrat-Hermelin. 1997)  Later study performed by Moussain-Bosc saw a decrease in ADHD symptoms using a combined magnesium / B6 regimen in several dozens of children with low red blood cell magnesium stores.  (Moussain-Bosc. 2004)

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a developmental perturbation characterized by attention problems and hyperactive behavior.  It’s the most commonly studied psychiatric disorder in children, affecting three to five percent of children worldwide.  Sadly, integrative therapies are spurned by traditional-minded doctors, so parents have taken it upon themselves to intervene, despite the lack of support from their physicians.

Bearing in mind that sugar has a nutrient-diluting effect might make a difference in ADHD management and magnesium stores in the body.  It’s normal to wonder where all the magnesium goes.  Doesn’t it stay still?  After all, it’s part of bone.  That’s true, but magnesium is also an electrolyte, helping to send calming electrical messages across the membrane of each cell, making it a natural calcium channel blocker.  It gets used up in the manufacture of more than three hundred enzymes the body needs, including those that make anti-inflammatory chemicals from fatty acids.  Situations and conditions within the body can push this mineral into the urine and then into the toilet.  Sugar intake, and even that of simple carbohydrates, increases the secretion of insulin by the pancreas.   Increased insulin, as might be found in insulin resistance, pushes magnesium out.  (Huerta. 2005)  The pancreas needs magnesium to make its other secretions, including those that break down proteins (trypsin and chymotripsin) and fats (lipase), as well as carbohydrates.  Carol Ballew and her colleagues found that carbonated beverages, namely soda, are negatively associated with magnesium levels This starts a vicious cycle because low magnesium is related to insulin resistance. (Ballew. 2000).

In tests done in the mid 90’s, it was discovered that elevated insulin levels result in increased magnesium excretion.  These researchers noted this as the explanation to the magnesium deficit that accompanies obesity, diabetes, and hypertension, as well as hyperinsulinemia.  (Djurhuus. 1995)  This same group later reported that high glucose levels, such as would come from a sugary breakfast or a plethora of sweet goodies, raise magnesium excretion by a factor greater than 2.0.  (Djurhuus. 2000)

The foods that once supplied dietary magnesium have become compromised by careless farming, harvesting, processing, storage, and handling practices.  We now get more calcium and less magnesium than ever in the history of mankind.  Sugar erases magnesium from the body’s slate. (Fuchs. 2002) (Tjaderhane. 1998) (Milne. 2000)  It’s time to put it back.  At 6.0 mg / kg / day, that equates to about 3.0 milligrams per pound of body weight…for all of us.

References

  • AUTISM RESEARCH REVIEW INTERNATIONAL Vol. 20, No.3, 2006
    Studies confirm benefits of vitamin B6/magnesium therapy for autism, PDD, and ADHD
    No Authors Cited

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  • Magnes Res. 1997 Jun;10(2):143-8.
    Assessment of magnesium levels in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
    Kozielec T, Starobrat-Hermelin B.

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  • Pediatrics. 2000 May;105(5):1158-70
    Did not perform differentiated diagnosis
    Clinical practice guideline: diagnosis and evaluation of the child with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. American Academy of Pediatrics.
    No authors listed

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  • Magnes Res. 2006 Mar;19(1):53-62.
    Improvement of neurobehavioral disorders in children supplemented with magnesium-vitamin B6. II. Pervasive developmental disorder-autism.
    Mousain-Bosc M, Roche M, Polge A, Pradal-Prat D, Rapin J, Bali JP.

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  • J Am Coll Nutr. 2004 Oct;23(5):545S-548S.
    Magnesium VitB6 intake reduces central nervous system hyperexcitability in children.
    Mousain-Bosc M, Roche M, Rapin J, Bali JP.

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  • J Clin Invest. 1970 July; 49(7): 1458–1465.
    A comparison of the effects of glucose ingestion and NH4Cl acidosis on urinary calcium
    and magnesium excretion in man

    Edward J. Lennon and Walter F. Piering

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  • J Abnorm Child Psychol. 1986 Dec;14(4):565-77.
    Behavioral effects of sucrose on preschool children.
    Goldman JA, Lerman RH, Contois JH, Udall JN Jr.

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  • Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2000;154:1148-1152
    Beverage Choices Affect Adequacy of Children’s Nutrient Intakes
    Carol Ballew, PhD; Sarah Kuester, MS, RD; Cathleen Gillespie

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  • Diabetes Care. 2005 May;28(5):1175-81.
    Magnesium deficiency is associated with insulin resistance in obese children.
    Huerta MG, Roemmich JN, Kington ML, Bovbjerg VE, Weltman AL, Holmes VF, Patrie JT, Rogol AD, Nadler JL.
    SourceUniversity of Virginia, Department of Pediatrics, Box 800386, Charlottesville, VA 22908, USA. [email protected]

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  • Diabetic Medicine.  Volume 12, Issue 8, pages 664–669, August 1995
    Insulin Increases Renal Magnesium Excretion: A Possible Cause of Magnesium
    Depletion in Hyperinsulinaemic States

    Dr. M.S. Djurhuus, P. Skøtt, O. Hother-Nielsen, N.A.H. Klitgaard, H. Beck-Nielsen

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  • Scan Jou of Clin & Laboratory Investigation. 2000, Vol. 60, No. 5 , Pages 403-410
    Hyperglycaemia enhances renal magnesium excretion in Type 1 diabetic patients
    S. Djurhuus

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  • J. Nutr. October 1, 1998 vol. 128 no. 10 1807-1810
    A High Sucrose Diet Decreases the Mechanical Strength of Bones in Growing Rats
    Leo Tjäderhane, and Markku Larmas
    Institute of Dentistry, University of Oulu, 90220 Oulu, Finland

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  • J Am Coll Nutr February 2000 vol. 19 no. 1 31-37
    The Interaction Between Dietary Fructose and Magnesium Adversely Affects
    Macromineral Homeostasis in Men

    David B. Milne, PhD and Forrest H. Nielsen, PhD

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

Food Safety: Packed Lunch

Food Safety and Packed LunchThe featured abstract, from the respected journal, Pediatrics, explores the condition of packed lunches at a pre-school.  There is no reason to think that other school environments are any different.  Despite a parent’s best efforts at keeping a child’s lunch from spoiling and causing food-related illnesses, such incidents still occur because of inattentive food handling at school.  Malevolence is not usually a factor.

The University of Texas initiated a study into the conditions at schools that can lead to food-borne pathogenic illnesses, and found that temperature control is the prime concern.  Ninety percent of kids’ packed lunches reach unsafe zones. Even with multiple ice packs, “…the majority of lunch items…were at unsafe temperatures.”  As is the case with all health-related measures, “Education of parents and the public must be focused on methods of packing lunches that allow the food to remain in the safe temperature zone to prevent foodborne illnesses.”
(Almansour. 2011)

The “danger zone” for foods lies between 40° F. and 140° F.  Therefore, foods kept outside the “zone” are subject to the growth of pathogenic micro-organisms, whether at school, on a picnic, in the backyard, or in the kitchen.  A mantra that has been embraced long ago is that food should not be kept out of refrigeration longer than two hours.  Luncheon meats, smoked meats, and other cured comestibles are not an exception.  If the ambient temperature is higher than 90° F., the limit is one hour.  Unless the classroom has a refrigerator, this is practically impossible to do at school.  Note that the insulated bags we use to pack our kids’ lunches can rebound inside a refrigerator and prevent the cold from getting to the food.

Of course, Mom or Dad has to start with clean ingredients prepared on a clean surface, using clean hands and clean implements.  The CDC holds that only 3% of food contamination can be attributed to the farm.  The other 97% occurs between there and the kitchen.  (Alliance for Food and Farmng.  2010)  Including an ice source is imperative if you know the lunch will be kept at room temperature, such as within a middle-school locker, where teachers have found last month’s French fries after the mephitis rendered the neighboring crowd semi-conscious.  If the timing can be figured out, it’s O.K. to freeze those items that can be frozen without compromising their sensory quality.  Dressings like mayonnaise, and delicate items like tomatoes, are not in this group.  Peanut butter and jelly, and whole fruits and vegetables need not be cold.

If salad ingredients are part of the repast, especially lettuce, it’s vital that they be kept below 39° F. or so, lest they start to show a significant decline in visual quality as well as in safety.  However, even if it looks good, lettuce can harbor and encourage proliferation of E. coli, a dastardly micro-organism with a reputation worse than Blackbeard’s. By the way, this bacterium can thrive even on the pre-washed, ready-to-eat greens you bring directly home from the supermarket.  (Luo. 2010)  Wash them anyway. Plain water works, but a 50-50 mix with hydrogen peroxide can set the mind at ease. Peroxide reverts to plain water after exposure to light and air. That’s why it comes in an opaque brown bottle.

Smaller amounts of food in shallow containers are easiest to handle. You really don’t want to be sorting leftovers after they’ve been on the bus ride home.  Getting the containers back is another story.

References

Pediatrics 2011; 128; peds.2010-2885
Published online August 8, 2011 (doi: 10.1542/peds.2010-2885)
Temperature of Foods Sent by Parents of Preschool-aged Children
Fawaz D. Almansour, MS, Sara J. Sweitzer, PhD, RD, LD, Allison A. Magness, BS, Eric E. Calloway, BS, Michael R. McAllaster, BS, Cynthia R. Roberts-Gray, PhD, Deanna M. Hoelscher, PhD, RD, LD, CNS, Margaret E. Briley, PhD, RD, LD

J Food Sci. 2010 Sep;75(7):M390-7.
Effect of storage temperature and duration on the behavior of Escherichia coli O157:H7 on packaged fresh-cut salad containing romaine and iceberg lettuce.
Luo Y, He Q, McEvoy JL.

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