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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.  http://www.bodybio.com/BodyBio/docs/BodyBioBulletin-LiquidMinerals.pdf.

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.   

iodine-samples

*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.

Sunflower Seeds Lower Cholesterol

plant sterols and stanolsSunflower seeds and pistachio nuts are top snacks for reducing cholesterol. Scientists have known for a long time that nuts and seeds are rich sources of phytosterols, plant compounds that are structurally related to cholesterol and may lower LDL levels. Keeping cholesterol in check may be your goal, but it’s not realistic to accomplish this without some work…as in exercise.

It’s been a few years since Science Daily first reported the news that chemists at Virginia Polytechnic Institute found the plant sterols in pistachios and sunflowers seeds to be valuable assets in the fight against rampant cholesterol numbers.  (ScienceDaily, 7 Dec. 2005. Web. 19 Aug. 2011.)  “Sesame seed and wheat germ had the highest total phytosterol content and Brazil nuts the lowest,” said scientists at VPI. (Phillips. 2005)  But these are not typically consumed as snack foods.  Sunflower seeds and pistachio nuts, on the other hand, are, and were found to be richest in these compounds.

Dietary phytosterols favorably alter cholesterol metabolism in a dose-dependent manner by reducing intestinal cholesterol absorption.  (Racette. 2010)  Even a moderate intake can be obtained from a healthy diet, without supplementation.  Of course, you have to eat the right foods.  Plants contain a large range of phytosterols, which are structural components of the cell wall.  (Plants have cell walls and cell membranes; animals just the membrane.)  What phytosterols do for plants, cholesterol does for animals.

As functional foods, plant sterols and stanols demonstrate a strong lipid-lowering effect. (Moore. 2011)  Including them as part of the diet may reduce risk for heart disease.  Studies at McGill University concentrated on patients with Type 2 diabetes and found that plant sterols had a significantly more profound effect on the cholesterol levels of Type 2 patients than on patients with high cholesterol without diabetes. (Lau. 2005)  LDL levels were lowered while the desirable HDL was relatively untouched.  Additional lipid study in Israel learned that consuming plant sterols also results in a drop in circulating insulin levels, pointing to their use as food enhancers that can reverse insulin resistance and hyperlipidemia, and possible help to control body weight.  (Ziv. 2009)

Controlling lipid levels with food or supplements is considerably more desirable than using drugs.  Suggested intake of two to three grams of these plant compounds a day, either from food, fortified foods, or supplements, can reduce lipids by almost ten percent.  (Baumgartner. 2011)  More than that affords no increased benefit.

Whether raw or roasted, sunflower seeds have a dedicated following.  Because they’re high in oil, the seeds are prone to rancidity, so refrigeration is a good idea.  They aren’t just for snacks, either.  They match pretty well with all the food groups and can really up the ante on nutrition.  Sauté them with vegetables, add them to your salads, fold them into meatloaf and mix them with baked goods and even eggs.  An ounce will give you two grams of fiber, almost half a day’s vitamin E, and a healthy ration of minerals.

References

American Chemical Society.
Sunflower Seeds, Pistachios Among Top Nuts For Lowering Cholesterol.
ScienceDaily, 7 Dec. 2005. Web. 19 Aug. 2011.

J. Agric. Food Chem., 2005, 53 (24), pp 9436–9445
Phytosterol Composition of Nuts and Seeds Commonly Consumed in the United States
Katherine M. Phillips, David M. Ruggio, and Mehdi Ashraf-Khorassani

Am J Clin Nutr January 2010 vol. 91 no. 1 32-38
Dose effects of dietary phytosterols on cholesterol metabolism: a controlled feeding study
Susan B Racette, Xiaobo Lin, Michael Lefevre, Catherine Anderson Spearie, Marlene M Most, Lina Ma, and Richard E Ostlund Jr

Curr Opin Endocrinol Diabetes Obes. 2011 Aug 11. [Epub ahead of print]
Functional foods and cardiovascular disease risk: building the evidence base.
Moore LL.

Am J Clin Nutr June 2005 vol. 81 no. 6 1351-1358
Plant sterols are efficacious in lowering plasma LDL and non-HDL cholesterol in hypercholesterolemic type 2 diabetic and nondiabetic persons
Vivian WY Lau, Mélanie Journoud and Peter JH Jones

Lipids Health Dis. 2009 Oct 12;8:42.
A high oleic sunflower oil fatty acid esters of plant sterols mixed with dietary diacylglycerol reduces plasma insulin and body fat accumulation in Psammomys obesus.
Ziv E, Patlas N, Kalman R, Pelled D, Herzog Y, Dror T, Cohen T.

Curr Pharm Des. 2011;17(9):922-32.
Plant sterols and stanols in the treatment of dyslipidemia: new insights into targets and mechanisms related to cardiovascular risk.
Baumgartner S, Mensink RP, Plat J.
Department of Human Biology, School for Nutrition, Toxicology and Metabolism, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands.

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

B Vitamins And Energy

happygirlA considerable fraction of the general population reports using one or more vitamin supplements. Reasons include fighting stress and tiredness, and improving mental function. Until recent decades, there was only modest support from the allopathic community that supplements could render any benefit.

Using questionnaires that tracked mood states, levels of perceived stress, and general health, researchers at the Brain Performance and Nutrition Center of Northumbria University, in the UK, discovered a relationship between vitamin supplement intake and overall performance as related to fatigue, mood, and feelings of well-being.  High-dose B-vitamin supplementation “…led to significant improvements in ratings…” in the vigor subscale of the subjective assessments.  (Kennedy. 2010)  Cognitive and executive function improved in parallel fashion as a result of physical reinvigoration.  The authors concluded that, “Healthy members of the general population may benefit from augmented levels of vitamins/minerals via direct dietary supplementation.”

When questioned about the rationale behind supplementation, the answer should list poor dietary choices, processed food, depleted soil, chemical fertilizers and biocides, synthetic additives, malabsorption, careless food preparation, haphazard storage and shipping, and the use of medications and alcohol.  Feel free to add a few.

Because the vitamin B complex is water-soluble and relatively delicate, it responds to whatever insults include boiling or steaming, heat, and prolonged exposure to light.  Not only that, but the complex is vulnerable to the aerosol pesticides used by the produce brokers who store foods prior to over-the-road shipping.

The B vitamins comprise a group that plays a vital role in cell metabolism.  They were once thought to be a single vitamin, but later were found to have distinct functions in the body, although they coexist in the same foods.  They received their numbers based on the order in which they were isolated.  In conjunction, the B complex is helpful to combat most symptoms and causes of conditions such as depression, stress, coronary heart disease and other cardiovascular concerns.  Working together, the B’s are able to support metabolic homeostasis, the immune system, and the nervous system, while simultaneously maintaining healthy skin, muscle tone, and promoting cell growth and division.  Neat, eh?

The water-solubility of B vitamins helps them disperse throughout the body, but also means that they need replacement every day.  Excess is excreted in urine, which explains the dark yellow-orange color that occurs after taking the supplement.  (That would be riboflavin, B2.)  One of the B group’s claims to fame is its role in the burning of carbohydrates for energy.  If this metabolic purpose is impaired, fatigue strikes, often with a vengeance.  Thiamine in particular, or one of its derivatives, is known to improve energy metabolism during physical fatigue (Nozaki.  2009), and is a reputed activator of carbohydrate processing (Masuda. 2010).

If taken as an isolated supplement, a singular B vitamin may act as a drug, even though there are few adverse reactions, with the possible exception of very high-dose pyridoxine (B6) being associated with sensory neuropathy.  (Scott. 2008)  Alcohol of any type, even the comparatively innocuous beer, will result in a net deficit of the B vitamins.

The stress that characterizes the Western lifestyle takes a physical, as well as psychological, toll.  The mood changes and testiness that follow physical exhaustion are shared with family and friends.  B-vitamin supplementation has shown itself to attenuate the causes and effects, either one at a time or together.  (Stough. 2011)  People with the lowest levels of the B vitamins in their diets usually have the poorest memories and cognitive abilities.  Those with gastric dysfunction, such as that characterized by low stomach acid or deficit of intrinsic factor, will absorb the least vitamin B12 from their foods, so are well-advised to supplement.

The interaction of the body’s chemistry is complex.  We need vitamin B2 to metabolize B6.  We need B6, B12, and folate to clear homocysteine, a marker for cardiac involvement.  But taking an isolated B vitamin without the rest of the family upsets the apple cart.  The RDA is a poor guide because it recommends only that dose of a nutrient that will prevent deficiency disease, such as beriberi or pellagra.  Meeting with a health care professional can help you to figure what’s what.

References

Kennedy DO, Veasey R, Watson A, Dodd F, Jones E, Maggini S, Haskell CF.
Effects of high-dose B vitamin complex with vitamin C and minerals on subjective mood and performance in healthy males.
Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2010 Jul;211(1):55-68.

SUPPORTING ABSTRACTS
Nozaki S, Mizuma H, Tanaka M, Jin G, Tahara T, Mizuno K, Yamato M, Okuyama K, Eguchi A, et al
Thiamine tetrahydrofurfuryl disulfide improves energy metabolism and physical performance during physical-fatigue loading in rats.
Nutr Res. 2009 Dec;29(12):867-72.

Masuda H, Matsumae H, Masuda T, Hatta H.
A thiamin derivative inhibits oxidation of exogenous glucose at rest, but not during exercise.
J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 2010;56(1):9-12.

Scott K, Zeris S, Kothari MJ.
Elevated B6 levels and peripheral neuropathies.
Electromyogr Clin Neurophysiol. 2008 Jun-Jul;48(5):219-23.

Stough C, Scholey A, Lloyd J, Spong J, Myers S, Downey LA.
The effect of 90 day administration of a high dose vitamin B-complex on work stress.
Hum Psychopharmacol. 2011 Sep 8.

Bassett JK, Hodge AM, English DR, Baglietto L, Hopper JL, Giles GG, Severi G.
Dietary intake of B vitamins and methionine and risk of lung cancer.
Eur J Clin Nutr. 2011 Aug 31.

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

Growing Old With Zinc

zinc-supplementsIf you read—and were enlightened by—the newsletter about aging and omega-3 fatty acids, you’ll likely be interested in this one about zinc and its relationship to aging and disease. For a long time, zinc has been associated with a strong immune system, but its connection to aging is a relatively new exploration. Whether zinc deficiency promotes aging or results from it matters little to those who endure its aftermath in their “golden” years.

What Is This Stuff?

Zinc is a mineral essential to all life. In humans, it plays a functional role in immunity, in growth and development, in neurological mechanisms, and in reproduction, as well as in several avenues of cellular metabolism. It performs a structural role in some proteins as a stabilizer and in cell membranes as a guard against oxidative insults and functional impairment (O’Dell, 2000). Additionally, zinc is a component of “zinc fingers,” which are structural domains that are wrapped around a zinc ion and regulate gene expression by acting as transcription factors by cleaving to DNA. Zinc has been found to be integral to programmed cell death, called apoptosis (Truong-Tran, 2000).

Do I Have Enough?

Possibly not. The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests that zinc deficiency is widespread and affects the health and well-being of populations worldwide. The International Zinc Nutrition Consultative group (IZiNCG) has determined that zinc intake is inadequate based on the presence and bioavailability of this micro-nutrient in each country’s food supply. Deficiency in children, especially, raises the risk for diarrheal diseases, pneumonia and malaria, the latter a defined danger for populations so exposed (WHO, 2008). Conservative estimates posit that one-fourth of the world’s population is deficient in zinc (Maret, 2006).

Although zinc deficiency is typically diet-related, it can spring from malabsorption, chronic liver and kidney disease, sickle-cell disease, diabetes, malignancy, and as a result of bariatric surgery, heavy metal exposure and possibly the ingestion of FD&C Yellow #5, known as tartrazine (GPN, 2012). The problem of zinc deficiency has been known for decades, but has received scant attention because it was believed that it could never occur in humans (Prasad, 2003). Yet its burden is outstanding and simply resolved with supplementation. The bioavailability of zinc from vegetarian diets is lower than from non-vegetarian diets because meat is not part of the vegan regimen. The legumes and plants common to vegetarian diets contain phytates that bind zinc and inhibit its absorption (Hunt, 2003) (Sandstrom, 1997) (Wise, 1995). Considering that poor agricultural, storage, shipping and kitchen practices can take a toll on any food’s nutritional profile, it can readily be seen that deficit is not the impossibility it once was thought to be. Eleven milligrams a day for an adult male and nine for a female is enough to meet nutritional requirements. Doses for children and pregnant women may be retrieved from the Office of Dietary Supplements at the National Institute of Health website (IOM, 2001).

What About Aging?

As we age, our DNA replication may become increasingly undependable because of shortened telomeres, possibly setting the stage for chronic, debilitating diseases, including cancer. There is a substantial body of evidence suggesting that a significant percentage of cancer deaths could be avoided by paying attention to proper nutrition.  Only in this century has zinc been tagged as a vital element in host defense against the initiation and progression of this disease, based partly on zinc’s character as supporting more than three hundred mammalian proteins (Ho, 2004). Because cancer is a disease mostly of the middle and older years, it is fitting to maintain a healthy nutritional intake, including supplementation if needed, noting that the elder population is vulnerable to zinc deficiency.

The pertinence of zinc to the entire immune system is well-documented. The presence of chronic inflammation, whether from physical illness, oxidative stress or the mental challenges of daily asperities, may induce sub-optimal zinc levels for most of us. From this was born the recommendation that zinc be supplemented to at-risk populations, notably the aged (Mocchegiani, 2006). It has been proposed that genetic screening for response to zinc intake be considered in order to maintain a healthy immune system, to ensure the activity of anti-oxidant proteins, and to avoid the frailty and degeneration that often accompany old age (Mocchegiani, 2007).

Among the environmental bombardments suffered by the immune system is cadmium exposure, largely from fossil fuels combustion, but also from some fertilizers, metal refining, and tobacco use. Smokers have four times the cadmium levels as non-smokers, and this may be causative of early atherosclerosis and hypertension, both being risk factors for CVD, but also attenuated by high zinc concentrations (Messner, 2009). The long biological half-life of cadmium only compounds the concerns by presenting a cumulative effect, resulting in sterilizing, teratogenic and carcinogenic ramifications (Bin, 1994). The physical attack from cadmium and cohort environmental insults may lead to a state termed immunosenescence, the gradual deterioration of the immune system brought on by natural age advancement. As soon as you agree that, “Hey, this is just the way it is,” you have already decided to lose the race by a considerable margin. A large part of the aging drama can be explained by an imbalance between pro- and anti-inflammatory complexes, most often resulting in low-grade chronic inflammation. This condition is a driving force behind the frailty and the more common conditions associated with aging (Franceschi, 2007).  The Third Zinc Age Meeting in Madrid offered that zinc supplementation presents a strong case in the management of healthy aging (Mocchegiani, 2006), since  zinc deficiency is constantly observed in the chronic inflammation of old age (Vasto, 2007) (Fabris, 1995).

The absolute requirement for zinc is not known to be higher in the elderly, buttheir intake tends to be low. There are social factors that can interfere withsound dietary habits, loneliness being paramount. Insufficient intake of zinc(from food or supplements) may lead to loss of taste sensation, which leads tounwillingness to eat, which continues the vicious cycle. Drugs that promote zincexcretion (including some diuretics), poor absorption and chronic diseases contributeto the deficit. Although it might not turn back the clock, zinc may be able toslow its forward progression.

References

Bin QH, Garfinkel D.
The cadmium toxicity hypothesis of aging: a possible explanation for the zinc deficiency hypothesis of aging.
Med Hypotheses. 1994 Jun;42(6):380-4.

Daaboul D, Rosenkranz E, Uciechowski P, Rink L.
Repletion of zinc in zinc-deficient cells strongly up-regulates IL-1β-induced IL-2 production in T-cells.
Metallomics. 2012 Oct 1;4(10):1088-97. Epub 2012 Sep 14.

Fabris N, Mocchegiani E.
Zinc, human diseases and aging.
Aging (Milano). 1995 Apr;7(2):77-93.

Franceschi C, Capri M, Monti D, Giunta S, Olivieri F, Sevini F, Panourgia MP, Invidia L, Celani L, Scurti M, Cevenini E, Castellani GC, Salvioli S.
Inflammaging and anti-inflammaging: a systemic perspective on aging and longevity emerged from studies in humans.
Mech Ageing Dev. 2007 Jan;128(1):92-105. Epub 2006 Nov 20.

Garfinkel D.
Is aging inevitable? The intracellular zinc deficiency hypothesis of aging.
Med Hypotheses. 1986 Feb;19(2):117-37.

GPN–General Practice Notebook–a UK Medical reference
http://www.gpnotebook.co.uk/simplepage.cfm?ID=886046736
Accessed 15 October, 2012

Emily Ho
Zinc deficiency, DNA damage and cancer risk
The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry. Vol 15, Iss 10 , PP 572-578, Oct 2004

Andrea Hönscheid, Svenja Dubben, Lothar Rink, Hajo Haas
Zinc differentially regulates mitogen-activated protein kinases in human T cells
The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry. Vol 23, Iss 1 , Pp 18-26, Jan 2012

Hunt JR.
Bioavailability of iron, zinc, and other trace minerals from vegetarian diets.
Am J Clin Nutr. 2003 Sep;78(3 Suppl):633S-639S.
Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Arsenic, Boron, Chromium, Copper, Iodine, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Nickel, Silicon, Vanadium, and Zinc. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2001.
http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-HealthProfessional/#en2

Mahoney MG, Brennan D, Starcher B, Faryniarz J, Ramirez J, Parr L, Uitto J.
Extracellular matrix in cutaneous ageing: the effects of 0.1% copper-zinc malonate-containing cream on elastin biosynthesis.
Exp Dermatol. 2009 Mar;18(3):205-11.

Maret W, Sandstead HH.
Zinc requirements and the risks and benefits of zinc supplementation.
J Trace Elem Med Biol. 2006;20(1):3-18. Epub 2006 Feb 21.

Messner B, Knoflach M, Seubert A, Ritsch A, Pfaller K, Henderson B, Shen YH, Zeller I, Willeit J, Laufer G, Wick G, Kiechl S, Bernhard D.
Cadmium is a novel and independent risk factor for early atherosclerosis mechanisms and in vivo relevance.
Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2009 Sep;29(9):1392-8.

Mocchegiani E, Malavolta M, Marcellini F, Pawelec G.
Zinc, oxidative stress, genetic background and immunosenescence: implications for healthy ageing.
Immun Ageing. 2006 Jun 26;3:6.

Mocchegiani E.
Zinc and ageing: third Zincage conference.
Immun Ageing. 2007 Sep 20;4:5.

O’Dell BL.
Role of zinc in plasma membrane function.
J Nutr. 2000 May;130(5S Suppl):1432S-6S.

Prasad AS, Fitzgerald JT, Hess JW, Kaplan J, Pelen F, Dardenne M.
Zinc deficiency in elderly patients.
Nutrition. 1993 May-Jun;9(3):218-24.

Prasad AS.
Zinc deficiency.
BMJ. 2003 Feb 22;326(7386):409-10.

Sandström B.
Bioavailability of zinc.
Eur J Clin Nutr. 1997 Jan;51 Suppl 1:S17-9.

Truong-Tran AQ, Ho LH, Chai F, Zalewski PD.
Cellular zinc fluxes and the regulation of apoptosis/gene-directed cell death.
J Nutr. 2000 May;130(5S Suppl):1459S-66S.

Vasto S, Mocchegiani E, Malavolta M, Cuppari I, Listì F, Nuzzo D, Ditta V, Candore G, Caruso C.
Zinc and inflammatory/immune response in aging.
Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2007 Apr;1100:111-22.

Wise A.
Phytate and zinc bioavailability.
Int J Food Sci Nutr. 1995 Feb;46(1):53-63.

Carmen P. Wong, Kathy R. Magnusson, Emily Ho
Increased inflammatory response in aged mice is associated with age-related zinc deficiency and zinc transporter dysregulation
The J of Nutr Biochem.  Article in Press–published online 17 September 2012.

World health Organization. Published Online: 17 January 2008
Comparative Quantification of Health Risks
Childhood and maternal undernutrition
Chapter 5: Zinc deficiency

Laura E. Caulfield and Robert E. Black
http://www.who.int/publications/cra/chapters/volume1/part2/en/index.html

Zatta P, Lucchini R, van Rensburg SJ, Taylor A.
The role of metals in neurodegenerative processes: aluminum, manganese, and zinc.
Brain Res Bull. 2003 Nov 15;62(1):15-28.

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

Vitamin C For Bone Health?

skeleton-vitamin-cHow many bones are in the human skeleton? How come it’s on the inside? What does it do? Does anybody really care? Sometimes.

The human skeleton offers shape and protection to the body. It supplies a place for organs to attach or to be supported. It comprises 206 bones, the largest of which is the thigh (femur). It makes up about 15% of your body weight, part of which is water. This fifteen percent refers to ideal body weight, not to a 400-pound behemoth who is less than six feet tall. Infants have more than 206. The skull starts out with more than twenty bones, some of which fuse together during development. Besides helping you to move, bones make red and white blood cells in their marrow, and act as a storage house for minerals. It takes about twenty years to develop completely.

Bone is actually a type of connective tissue, obviously denser than cartilage, which is the flexible stuff at the flap of your ear (tragus) and the tip of your nose. Cartilage also makes the discs that separate your vertebrae from each other and the femur from the tibia at the knee. Bone tissue is heavily mineralized by a form of calcium called hydroxyapatite. Calcium is the mineral found in the greatest amount in the body, about ninety-nine percent of which is in bone. Phosphorus works with calcium to maintain bone health by combining to make hydroxyapatite. This aggregation helps bone to remodel—to break down and then to redeposit. Trace amounts of other minerals, including magnesium, boron, copper and zinc, stimulate bone growth. But there’s one element of bone health that is overlooked because it’s thought of as nothing more than an anti-oxidant—vitamin C, aka ascorbic acid.

In a study of prepubescent females done in Philadelphia, it was learned that specific bone parameters were positively affected by vitamin C, especially in combination with zinc. For every milligram a day of vitamin C intake, there was an increase in trabecular bone area (Laudermilk, 2012). That’s the porous part of a bone found in the center and at the end of a long bone, like the femur. It’s important to the manufacture of blood cells inside the red marrow. Because it’s porous, trabecular bone is not as strong as the harder cortical outer layer. As hormones change with development, bone requirements also change. This is why it’s necessary to lay down as much bone as possible in one’s early years. By the time a girl reaches thirty, she will have laid down all the bone she ever will, which is probably why a DXA scan compares/contrasts a patient’s bone density to that of a thirty-year-old. You can read about this at the NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center website,
http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Bone/Bone_Health/bone_mass_measure.asp

If vitamin C intake promotes bone, then deficiency must degrade it. Too little vitamin C causes scurvy, the condition that once affected seamen who were deprived of fresh fruits and vegetables for prolonged periods. That doesn’t happen anymore; at least it shouldn’t. The sailors’ joints and muscles would hurt, they bruised easily, their gums would bleed, and their teeth would sometimes fall out. Since vitamin C is responsible for the formation of connective tissue, these occurrences seem relevant.  Spontaneous fractures caused by low bone mineral density, and considered to be induced by a failure of collagen synthesis, also characterize scurvy (Park, 2012). Deficiency of vitamin C is implicated in scurvy by the inhibition of osteoblast activity. You remember osteoblasts.  They’re the cells responsible for making new bone material.

Most animals do not require external sources of vitamin C because they can get it from glucose through their enzyme systems. Humans and other primates, guinea pigs, and fruit bats lack this ability, so they have to get it from their diets. Since fast foods have replaced fruits and vegetables, many of us may be vitamin C deficient in the absence of supplementation.  Lettuces, onions, apples and bananas don’t help. Citrus fruits, cruciferous vegetables and strawberries do. Besides diet, other lifestyle factors influence vitamin C status, especially smoking, a habit that seriously affects the neck of the femur (Sahni, 2008) unless ascorbic acid intake is considerably greater than the RDA. The dietary recommendation for vitamin C is that amount needed to prevent a condition caused by its lack, in this case, scurvy and its aftermath. Sixty milligrams a day is hardly enough to meet a human’s physiological and metabolic needs. The 400-pound gorilla at the zoo gets 4000 milligrams a day. Shouldn’t a 200-pound human get 2000, then?

Speaking of the femur…This is where the hip joint is, at the top of the thigh bone.  In a seventeen-year follow-up study conducted by Tufts University, those elderly (70-80 yrs.) in the highest third of vitamin C intake had significantly fewer hip and non-vertebral fractures than those in the bottom third, suggesting a protective effect of vitamin C on bone health (Sahni, 2009). It’s important to note that oral contraceptives may adversely affect vitamin C accumulation. Women who fail to supplement while taking hormones as oral contraceptives have lower plasma levels of vitamin C than those who do supplement (Kuo, 2002). This, however, would seem to be the case regardless of contraceptive use.  Concerning sex steroids, both estrogen and testosterone are important for developing peak bone mass (Riggs, 2002). In the case of hypogonadism, where sex glands produce little or no hormones, vitamin C stimulates bone formation (Zhu, 2012), allowing bone recovery in light of hormone deficit. This finding is particularly important to those at risk for osteoporosis, as may be such in developing countries, among the food insecure, and in men who have had certain treatments for prostate disease, including one called gonadotropin-releasing hormone, abbreviated GnRH  (Mittan, 2002).

Despite having lost the ability to synthesize vitamin C, humans can take supplements or increase dietary intake to avert the onset of osteoporosis, realizing that ascorbic acid can block osteoclast proliferation and bone loss while promoting osteoblast activity and bone remodeling.

References

Fain O.
Musculoskeletal manifestations of scurvy.
Joint Bone Spine. 2005 Mar;72(2):124-8.

Gabbay KH, Bohren KM, Morello R, Bertin T, Liu J, Vogel P.
Ascorbate synthesis pathway: dual role of ascorbate in bone homeostasis.
J Biol Chem. 2010 Jun 18;285(25):19510-20.

Kuo SM, Stout A, Wactawski-Wende J, Leppert PC.
Ascorbic acid status in postmenopausal women with hormone replacement therapy.
Maturitas. 2002 Jan 30;41(1):45-50.

Laudermilk MJ, Manore MM, Thomson CA, Houtkooper LB, Farr JN, Going SB.
Vitamin C and Zinc Intakes are Related to Bone Macroarchitectural Structure and Strength in Prepubescent Girls.
Calcif Tissue Int. 2012 Oct 18.

Lean JM, Davies JT, Fuller K, Jagger CJ, Kirstein B, Partington GA, Urry ZL, Chambers TJ.
A crucial role for thiol antioxidants in estrogen-deficiency bone loss.
J Clin Invest. 2003 Sep;112(6):915-23.

Mittan D, Lee S, Miller E, Perez RC, Basler JW, Bruder JM.
Bone loss following hypogonadism in men with prostate cancer treated with GnRH analogs.
J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2002 Aug;87(8):3656-61.

NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center
Bone Mass Measurement: What the Numbers Mean
January, 2012
http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Bone/Bone_Health/bone_mass_measure.asp

Park JK, Lee EM, Kim AY, Lee EJ, Min CW, Kang KK, Lee MM, Jeong KS.
Vitamin C deficiency accelerates bone loss inducing an increase in PPAR-γ expression in SMP30 knockout mice.
Int J Exp Pathol. 2012 Oct;93(5):332-40.

B. Lawrence Riggs, Sundeep Khosla and L. Joseph Melton II
Sex Steroids and the Construction and Conservation of the Adult Skeleton
Endocrine Reviews June 1, 2002 vol. 23 no. 3 279-302

Sahni S, Hannan MT, Gagnon D, Blumberg J, Cupples LA, Kiel DP, Tucker KL.
High vitamin C intake is associated with lower 4-year bone loss in elderly men.
J Nutr. 2008 Oct;138(10):1931-8.

Sahni S, Hannan MT, Gagnon D, Blumberg J, Cupples LA, Kiel DP, Tucker KL.
Protective effect of total and supplemental vitamin C intake on the risk of hip fracture–a 17-year follow-up from the Framingham Osteoporosis Study.
Osteoporos Int. 2009 Nov;20(11):1853-61.

Markus J. Seibel, Colin R. Dunstan, Hong Zhou, Charles M. Allan and David J. Handelsman
Sex Steroids, Not FSH, Influence Bone Mass
Cell. 2006 Dec 15;127(6):1079

Simon JA, Hudes ES.
Relation of ascorbic acid to bone mineral density and self-reported fractures among US adults.
Am J Epidemiol. 2001 Sep 1;154(5):427-33.

Zhu L-L, Cao J, Sun M, Yuen T, Zhou R, Mne Zaidi, et al.
Vitamin C Prevents Hypogonadal Bone Loss.
PLoS ONE (2012); 7(10): e47058.

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

Mineral Balance: Sodium-Potassium

sodium-potassium-scaleLike children on a see-saw, some minerals work to balance each other in the body. Almost everything in nature is about balance. In humans and animals it’s called homeostasis, which is the property of the body to maintain its internal environment in a stable, constant condition. Occasionally, mainstream medicine overlooks the balance aspect and tends to look at isolated parts and actions of the body. One of these oversights involves sodium and its relationship with potassium, working together as the sodium-potassium pump, which is the mechanism of active transport by which sodium and potassium ions are moved across the cell membrane, into and out of the cell. With the help of ATP as the source of energy, sodium is extruded from the cell and potassium is invited in. This energetic display is necessary for protein biosynthesis, maintenance of osmotic equilibrium, initiation of nerve impulses and transport of some other molecules, such as glucose, across the membrane. To clarify, ATP is a high-energy phosphate compound used by the body to get things done, including muscle contractions and enzyme metabolism, among others.

Sodium (Na) and potassium (K) are essential minerals and electrolytes. As the latter, they dissociate into ions (charged particles), allowing them to conduct electricity. In order for the body to function the right way, they need to be regulated on both sides of the cell membrane. The recommended intake of sodium had been 2300 milligrams a day, but is now 1500 mg/d; that for potassium being unchanged at 4700 mg/day. The sodium:potassium ratio, therefore, has moved from 1:2 to almost 1:3, which is closer to what is believed to be the body’s ideal. In plants, of which humans eat too few, the natural ratio of Na to K is about 1:10.

Sodium is the chief ion outside the cell, potassium inside. Inside the cell, sodium concentrations are ten times lower than outside. Potassium concentration inside are about thirty times higher than outside. The difference across the membrane creates an electrochemical gradient known as membrane potential, which uses a lot of the body’s energy to maintain itself. Without this tight control, muscles would suffer, especially the heart. In the typical American diet, intake of sodium (as sodium chloride) is three times higher than potassium, just the opposite of what it should be. The dietary guidelines for sodium consumption are currently being met by only a tiny percent of the population (Drewnowski, 2012)

Table salt is about 39% sodium. A simple explanation is that one teaspoon of salt, which has a mass about 6200 mg, contains approximately 2400 mg of sodium.

The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), first conducted in the early 70’s, reported in 2012 that more than 90% of adults consumed more than 2300 mg/d of sodium a day, and less than 2%–that’s two percent—met the recommendation for potassium (Cogswell, 2012). It’s no small surprise that high blood pressure is rampant (Wenberger, 1986) (Elliot, 1991, 1996) (Dyer, 1995) (He, 2004) (Levings, 2012)  Of course, you could argue that the relationship of sodium intake to hypertension is a genetic matter, but do you know your genes?

Increasing potassium and reducing sodium intake will help to reduce blood pressure. But be careful not to overdo it by using supplements without strict supervision, since potassium overload is almost as bad as potassium deficiency. After all, potassium is used to stop the heart in lethal injections. Aiming for the recommended 4700 mg a day means that vegetables and fruit intake needs to go up, while intake of cakes, cookies and prepared foods needs to go down. Overdosing potassium from foods is almost impossible…you can’t eat that much food.

If less than 2% of Americans get the recommended amount of potassium, how much do we get?  From data collected in 2009-2010, women get about 50% of the RDI, men about 81% (USDA, 2012). Besides supporting coronary health, potassium seems to lower the risk of stroke (Ascherio, 1998) (Larsson, 2011). If you’ve got abnormally high urinary calcium levels, you might be looking at kidney stones in your future, something we wouldn’t wish on anyone.  Increasing dietary potassium levels by increasing fruit and vegetable intake has been found to decrease urinary calcium excretion. Taking a supplement under supervision will do the same thing. It has been found that getting more than 4000 mg of potassium a day reduces risk of kidney stones (Curhan, 2004).

Diuretics may lower potassium levels, but not all do, so check with your doctor to find out if your diuretic is potassium-sparing or not. Laxatives, caffeine, tobacco and lots of sugar may also compromise potassium stores. Physical and mental stress interferes with potassium metabolism. If you haven’t already, try to increase potassium foods, including sweet potatoes, bananas, tomatoes, oranges, beans, squashes, nuts and seeds, green foods, avocados, garlic and a host of other produce. Look here for a list:
http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2005/document/html/appendixb.htm.

Look at both sodium and potassium in the context of what you eat every day and try to balance foods before you consider a potassium supplement. You know where most of the salt comes from (processed foods and the salt shaker), but you’ll have to read labels to find the rest. If you can maintain a ratio of one to one, you’ll be better off than most, but trying to get two to one, potassium to sodium, is preferred. Limiting sodium to about 500 mg in a meal is a virtuous endeavor. Look at some soup cans and you’ll see more than that in a tiny serving’s worth.  Even certain “light” soups have 650 mg of sodium in a 1-cup serving. Potassium values of these products are half that, which is the opposite of what it should be.  If the whole can is consumed, sodium-potassium balance needs to be addressed at other meals. Seeing kids unbalanced on a see-saw can be amusing. Viewing sodium-potassium balance from a gurney is not.

References

Arcand J, Steckham K, Tzianetas R, L’Abbe MR, Newton GE.
Evaluation of Sodium Levels in Hospital Patient Menus
Arch Intern Med. 2012;172(16):1261-1262.

Ascherio A, Rimm EB, Hernán MA, Giovannucci EL, Kawachi I, Stampfer MJ, Willett WC.
Intake of potassium, magnesium, calcium, and fiber and risk of stroke among US men.
Circulation. 1998 Sep 22;98(12):1198-204.

Barri YM, Wingo CS.
The effects of potassium depletion and supplementation on blood pressure: a clinical review.
Am J Med Sci. 1997 Jul;314(1):37-40.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Usual sodium intakes compared with current dietary guidelines — United States, 2005-2008.
MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2011 Oct 21;60(41):1413-7.

Cogswell ME, Zhang Z, Carriquiry AL, Gunn JP, Kuklina EV, Saydah SH, Yang Q, Moshfegh AJ.
Sodium and potassium intakes among US adults: NHANES 2003-2008.
Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Sep;96(3):647-57.

Curhan GC, Willett WC, Knight EL, Stampfer MJ.
Dietary factors and the risk of incident kidney stones in younger women: Nurses’ Health Study II.
Arch Intern Med. 2004 Apr 26;164(8):885-91.

Denton D, Weisinger R, Mundy NI, Wickings EJ, Dixson A, Moisson P, Pingard AM, Shade R, Carey D, Ardaillou R, et al.
The effect of increased salt intake on blood pressure of chimpanzees.
Nat Med. 1995 Oct;1(10):1009-16.

Drewnowski A, Maillot M, Rehm C.
Reducing the sodium-potassium ratio in the US diet: a challenge for public health.
Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Aug;96(2):439-44.

Dyer AR, Stamler R, Elliott P, Stamler J.
Dietary salt and blood pressure.
Nat Med. 1995 Oct;1(10):994-6.

Elliott P
Observational studies of salt and blood pressure.
Hypertension. 1991 Jan;17(1 Suppl):I3-8.

Elliott P, Stamler J, Nichols R, Dyer AR, Stamler R, Kesteloot H, Marmot M.
Intersalt revisited: further analyses of 24 hour sodium excretion and blood pressure within and across populations. Intersalt Cooperative Research Group.
BMJ. 1996 May 18;312(7041):1249-53.

He FJ, MacGregor GA.
Effect of longer-term modest salt reduction on blood pressure.
Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2004;(3):CD004937

Hoorn EJ, Betjes MG, Weigel J, Zietse R.
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er and too much salt.

Nephrol Dial Transplant. 2008 May;23(5):1562-8.

Krishna GG, Chusid P, Hoeldtke RD.
Mild potassium depletion provokes renal sodium retention.
J Lab Clin Med. 1987 Jun;109(6):724-30.

Krishna GG.
Role of potassium in the pathogenesis of hypertension.
Am J Med Sci. 1994 Feb;307 Suppl 1:S21-5.

Larsson SC, Virtamo J, Wolk A.
Potassium, calcium, and magnesium intakes and risk of stroke in women.
Am J Epidemiol. 2011 Jul 1;174(1):35-43.

Levings J, Cogswell M, Curtis CJ, Gunn J, Neiman A, Angell SY.
Progress toward sodium reduction in the United States.
Rev Panam Salud Publica. 2012 Oct;32(4):301-6.

National Institute of Health
Jan. 26, 2009
Sodium/Potassium Ratio Linked to Cardiovascular Disease Risk
http://www.nih.gov/researchmatters/january2009/01262009hypertension.htm

Akira Okayama; Katsuyuki Miura; Tomonori Okamura; Nagako Okuda; Shigeyuki Saitoh; et al
Abstract MP077: Dietary Sodium Potassium Ratio as a Risk Factor for Stroke, Cardiovascular Diseases and All-cause Death Among Japanese: Nippondata80.
Circulation. 2012; 125: AMP077

Quanhe Yang, PhD; Tiebin Liu, MSPH; Elena V. Kuklina, MD, PhD; et al.
Sodium and Potassium Intake and Mortality Among US AdultsProspective Data From the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey FREE
Arch Intern Med. 2011;171(13):1183-1191.

Lynn D. Silver, MD, MPH; Thomas A. Farley, MD, MPH
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Arch Intern Med. 2011;171(13):1191-1192.

Stofan JR, Zachwieja JJ, Horswill CA, Murray R, Anderson SA, Eichner E
Sweat and sodium losses in NCAA football players: a precursor to heat cramps?
Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2005 Dec;15(6):641-52.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. 2012.
Total Nutrient Intakes: Percent Reporting and Mean Amounts of Selected Vitamins and Minerals from Food and Dietary
Supplements, by Family Income (as ! of Federal Poverty Threshold) and Age, What We Eat in America, NHANES 2009-2010. Available: www.ars.usda.gov/ba/bhnrc/fsrg.
USDA, Agricultural Research Services

USDA
Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005
Appendix B-1. Food Sources of Potassium
http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2005/document/html/appendixb.htm

USDA. Downloadable pdf Tables.
What We Eat in America, 2009-2010.
http://www.ars.usda.gov/Services/docs.htm?docid=18349

Weinberger MH, Miller JZ, Luft FC, Grim CE, Fineberg NS.
Definitions and characteristics of sodium sensitivity and blood pressure resistance.
Hypertension. 1986 Jun;8(6 Pt 2):II127-34.

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

Mineral Balance: Copper-Zinc

copper-zinc-scaleThe last mineral topic we covered dealt with sodium and potassium. Important stuff, this mineral balance. Recall that the amounts of minerals needed by the body are not an indication of their importance, and that we probably can’t get all that we need from our foods because of untrustworthy practices from seed to table. Remember, too, that kids, especially, need to eat the plants to get the minerals. The recommended number of servings of fruits and vegetables is now nine to thirteen, up from five to nine. Either way, how many people do you know who eat that much?

Copper and zinc are antagonists, and the balance between them is an example of biological dualism. This does that, and that does this, and they often fight with each other. Kind of a simple explanation, but maybe you get it. Yes, it’s possible for there to be zinc toxicity and copper toxicity. In the past, it’s been copper toxicity and zinc deficiency. Today it might be just the reverse, considering that people take supplements without the faithful reading of labels. Both minerals play important roles in the body.

Copper is necessary for blood vessel formation, a strong heart and for stabilizing collagen. You know what collagen is…the glue that holds us together. We need copper for brain development and for communication between nerve cells in the brain. Copper is essential to a number of enzymes involved in energy production by the mitochondria.  It helps to make superoxide dismutase to get rid of reactive oxygen species (free radicals). Because it’s found in a number of foods, copper deficiency is not common. Meats, shellfish, nuts, and seeds are premier sources, followed by mushrooms, lentils, shredded wheat and chocolate. Daily intake by adults normally is a little more than a milligram, which is only a bit higher than the RDA of 0.9 mg. The tolerable upper limit for adults is 10 mg, while most supplements contain 2 mg. Infants fed a cow’s milk diet are the ones most likely deficient because milk has little copper, but people with malabsorption disorders are close behind. Anemia and low white blood cell count are signs of deficit. Take care to note that very high doses of vitamin C might interfere with copper-related enzyme efficiency (Finley, 1983). But that’s not written in stone. Zinc overdose, however, might be a legitimate cause of copper deprivation.

Now, here’s the rub with zinc. Concerns arise when you take several supplements that each contain zinc. The tolerable upper limit, the dose above which there may be adverse reactions, is 40 milligrams for an adult. Let’s see, Hmm, prostate formula contains 15 mg; cold/flu formula contains 15 mg; daily multi-vitamin contains 15 mg; nasal spray contains 5 mg; other zinc complexes aimed at myriad conditions contain more…  Can you see where we’re going?  Copper deficiency now becomes a possibility. The need for zinc hovers around 11 mg for a guy, about 8 mg for a non-pregnant female.

Zinc is needed for steroid hormone synthesis, being a well-known catalyst for testosterone manufacture as well as luteinizing hormone, the one that stimulates ovulation. Of all the body parts, the prostate contains the highest concentrations. More than a hundred different enzymes rely on zinc for their ability to catalyze chemical reactions in the body. It plays a structural role in the superoxide dismutase mentioned in the earlier paragraph and in the integrity of the cell membrane. In fact, the loss of zinc from biological membranes increases their susceptibility to oxidative damage (O’Dell, 2000). Then, we have these nifty little things called zinc fingers, which are transcription factors that bind to DNA and influence specific genes, which are stabilized by the presence of zinc. Taking too much zinc over a period of a few weeks will upset copper bioavailability, possibly resulting in hematology issues down the line. Meanwhile, the bioavailability of folate/folic acid/folinic acid is enhanced by zinc.

Zinc deficiency usually follows genetic disorders and is identified as such. Immune deficiencies, impaired healing, diminished sense of taste (and perhaps smell), night blindness, opacity of the cornea, behavioral disturbances, and delayed maturation are common signs of low zinc values. Deficiency in children is dramatic in that neuropsychological development is impeded and susceptibility to life-threatening infections is increased (Hambidge, 2000).

Do those zinc lozenges advertisements have any immune system merit? We know that zinc deficiency causes immune dysfunction, but there is mixed commentary on the efficacy of zinc mega-doses for colds and other viral infections in people with ample zinc stores (Baum, 2000) (Salqueiro, 2000) (Fraker, 2000). The immune system relies on more than just zinc for its competence. Essential amino and fatty acids, selenium and iron, folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12, and vitamins E, A and C have a say in the immune system’s function. Consider, too, that a deficiency in one of these is likely to follow a deficiency in one or more of the others. Intakes of nutrients in excess of the recommendations do not necessarily translate to a boost in all immune activity unless a deficiency has been identified. Even then, despite the disparity in research conclusions, mega-doses of one mineral can knock another one out of the ring. On the other hand, using zinc lozenges as soon as cold symptoms appear seems to reduce severity and duration, depending on the formulation (Singh, 2011).

Balancing copper and zinc, though vitally important, may not be as easy as expected. Exposure to other metals, especially to lead that may originate from ancient water pipes, contaminated ground water, the shooting sports, some toys and paints,and fishing sinkers, can push zinc out. Iron, particularly from a supplement, may inhibit intestinal absorption of both zinc and copper through competition for transport molecules located in the gut. Wilson’s disease, the inability to metabolize copper out of the body, requires a dietary change that precludes mushrooms, nuts, chocolate, shellfish and dried fruits, and includes zinc therapy (Chasapis, 2012). The testing for zinc and copper values is not completely established because reference ranges are based on statistical averages, not on optimum functional levels. As with other nutrients, availability from foods is too often questionable, but supplementation should to be considered under the guidance of a knowledgeablenutrition professional, such as a credentialed nutritionist or dietitian. A caveat: Don’t even think about drinking water from a galvanized container. There are reports of a family that had collected its drinking water from a brand new refuse container and suffered from zinc overdose. Some denture adhesives contain zinc. Be careful. Read labels.

References

Baum MK, Shor-Posner G, Campa A.
Zinc status in human immunodeficiency virus infection.
J Nutr. 2000 May;130(5S Suppl):1421S-3S.

Brewer GJ, Yuzbasiyan-Gurkan V, Lee DY.
Use of zinc-copper metabolic interactions in the treatment of Wilson’s disease.
J Am Coll Nutr. 1990 Oct;9(5):487-91.

Calder PC, Kew S.
The immune system: a target for functional foods?
Br J Nutr. 2002 Nov;88 Suppl 2:S165-77.

Chan S, Gerson B, Subramaniam S.
The role of copper, molybdenum, selenium, and zinc in nutrition and health.
Clin Lab Med. 1998 Dec;18(4):673-85.

Chasapis CT, Loutsidou AC, Spiliopoulou CA, Stefanidou ME.
Zinc and human health: an update.
Arch Toxicol. 2012 Apr;86(4):521-34.

Finley EB, Cerklewski FL.
Influence of ascorbic acid supplementation on copper status in young adult men.
Am J Clin Nutr. 1983 Apr;37(4):553-6.

Fraker PJ, King LE, Laakko T, Vollmer TL.
The dynamic link between the integrity of the immune system and zinc status.
J Nutr. 2000 May;130(5S Suppl):1399S-406S.

Hambidge M.
Human zinc deficiency.
J Nutr. 2000 May;130(5S Suppl):1344S-9S.

Hulisz D.
Efficacy of zinc against common cold viruses: an overview.
J Am Pharm Assoc (2003). 2004 Sep-Oct;44(5):594-603.

Jackson JL, Lesho E, Peterson C.
Zinc and the common cold: a meta-analysis revisited.
J Nutr. 2000 May;130(5S Suppl):1512S-5S.

McElroy BH, Miller SP.
Effectiveness of zinc gluconate glycine lozenges (Cold-Eeze) against the common cold in school-aged subjects: a retrospective chart review.
Am J Ther. 2002 Nov-Dec;9(6):472-5.

Milne DB, Davis CD, Nielsen F
Low dietary zinc alters indices of copper function and status in postmenopausal women.
Nutrition. 2001 Sep;17(9):701-8.

O’Dell BL.
Role of zinc in plasma membrane function.
J Nutr. 2000 May;130(5S Suppl):1432S-6S.

Perrone L, Di Palma L, Di Toro R, Gialanella G, Moro R.
Interaction of trace elements in a longitudinal study of human milk from full-term and preterm mothers.
Biol Trace Elem Res. 1994 Jun;41(3):321-30.

Salgueiro MJ, Zubillaga M, Lysionek A, Cremaschi G, Goldman CG, Caro R, De Paoli T, Hager A, Weill R, Boccio J.
Zinc status and immune system relationship: a review.
Biol Trace Elem Res. 2000 Sep;76(3):193-205.

Singh M, Das RR.
Zinc for the common cold.
Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011 Feb 16;(2):CD001364.

Turnlund J, Costa F, Margen S.
Zinc, copper, and iron balance in elderly men.
Am J Clin Nutr. 1981 Dec;34(12):2641-7.

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

The Importance of Mineral Balance

fruitsMinerals are important nutrients found in foods. Alone, they are inactive chemical elements, whether in a rock as calcium or in a cast iron pan. But in the body they become operational, either structurally as bone, for example, or functionally as an electrolyte or hormone. Minerals are the most permanent part of a living organism, responsible for muscle responses, the transmission of messages through the nervous system, the maintenance of pH and the metabolism of food. Because the body is unable to manufacture them, minerals must come from the diet.

There are two groups of minerals in the body, major minerals and trace minerals. The former are required in amounts of 100 milligrams a day or more; the latter in lesser amounts. Different charts from different sources may disagree about some of them, but calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, chloride and potassium are generally listed as major, while iron, iodine, selenium, zinc, chromium, copper and manganese are often named as trace minerals. This group may also include molybdenum, silicon, boron, cobalt, sulfur and a few others. Each of these, both major and trace, has a specific job to do, and none is less important than any other.

In the body, some of these work as a team. Sodium and potassium work together in muscle contractions and relaxation. Calcium and magnesium have a similar working relationship, but each also does something else. The balance of these teams of minerals will be addressed separately later on. What’s important to realize is that mineral depletion of the soil affects food value and ultimately, our health. Even though minerals move up the food chain from plant to animal to humans, deficiency is more common than imagined. Failure to rotate crops, breeding high-yield nutritionally-shallow cultivars, harvesting prematurely to prevent decay in transit, use of biocides, poor storage and handling, and careless cooking practices combine to denigrate food  quality. In 2004, Dr. Donald Davis led a crop nutrient study at the University of Texas Biochemical Institute, tracking the change in food quality of forty-three garden crops over the past few decades, finding statistically reliable declines. (Davis, 2004)

Dietary minerals are present in the human body at a certain mass and concentration necessary to support the biochemical reactions of metabolism dependent upon those minerals. Intake of these is mandatory for optimal health. Deplorably, food cannot provide the necessities. If we consider food insecurity, pitiful dietary choices, chronic illness, injury, imprudent lifestyle or other deviance, a need for mineral supplementation emerges.

If unbalanced beyond the body’s ability to regulate them, minerals can accumulate and cause harm. It’s not a good idea to take minerals merely because there was an advertisement in a popular magazine. For example, selenium is a recognized anti-oxidant mineral. Too much selenium, as might come from regularly eating too many Brazil nuts, can cause fingernails to flake and hair to fall out, garlic breath, pulmonary edema and even cirrhosis. Healthcare professionals, dietitians paramount, will probably dissuade you from taking more than you actually need. Minerals get spent at different rates as they metabolize.

Yes, calcium is needed for bones and a strong heartbeat, but overload can precipitate as kidney stones and cause constipation. Even with perfect foods, diet supplies less calcium than what we need (Ervin, 2004). Chloride helps to make stomach acid and to maintain pH. Deficiency is almost unheard of. Magnesium deficit, however, is real, especially in children who avoid vegetables and because of mindless cooking techniques. Magnesium is a muscle relaxant and a part of more than three hundred enzymes, although most is in bones and teeth. Magnesium overdose can keep you close to the porcelain.

Phosphorus is found in every cell of the body, second in amount only to calcium. It’s part of DNA, contributes to bone and teeth structure, and catalyzes the B-vitamins. Deficiency is unlikely, but overabundance, such as might come from too many cans of soda, can create calcium imbalance. Potassium is an essential electrolyte. Living inside the cell, it controls water and acid-base balance while helping to relax a muscle contraction and to regulate heartbeat. Deficiency is common among the elderly, who are more apt to suffer chronic disease and to take medications that deplete this mineral. Sodium maintains fluid balance and plays a role in muscle contraction, opposite potassium. Diarrhea, vomiting, heavy sweating and chronic illness can compromise sodium stores, but excess is more common.

Chromium enhances insulin function. Cobalt is part of vitamin B12. Copper helps to make collagen and hemoglobin.  Iodine keeps the thyroid healthy and helps to regulate energy production.  Iron helps to manufacture hemoglobin, and may even benefit the immune system. Manganese supports enzyme reactions and the overall health of the nervous system. Molybdenum helps the body to use iron and to burn carbohydrates. Sulfur, found in all cells and tissues, is needed to make collagen and for the synthesis of proteins. Finally, at least for now, zinc is one of the more active minerals, involved in more than 200 enzymatic reactions. It is essential for growth and development, the regulation of insulin, immune function, prostate health and cell membrane integrity. Imbalance can interfere with copper function.

You may be wondering why silver is absent. It plays no natural biological role in humans, and its health effects are hotly disputed, though topical application for wound healing is less so. Ingested silver may cause argyria, resulting in bluish-gray skin and mucous membranes. Fluorine likewise is not essential, though it is present in tea in varying amounts. Topically on teeth, not internally, is okay.

Mineral deficiencies are not spontaneous. Toxicity may occur inadvertently, as from exposure to industrial pollutants, household chemicals or even some drugs. Iron poisoning is the most common mineral toxicity found in children, almost always resulting from overindulgence in vitamins. With mineral supplementation, prudence is the catchword.

References

Behall KM, Scholfield DJ, Lee K, Powell AS, Moser PB.
Mineral balance in adult men: effect of four refined fibers.
Am J Clin Nutr. 1987 Aug;46(2):307-14.

Bushinsky DA.
Acid-base imbalance and the skeleton.
Eur J Nutr. 2001 Oct;40(5):238-44.

Davis DR, Epp MD, Riordan HD.
Changes in USDA food composition data for 43 garden crops, 1950 to 1999.
J Am Coll Nutr. 2004 Dec;23(6):669-82.

Ervin RB, Wang C-Y, Wright JD, Kennedy-Stephenson J.
Dietary intake of selected minerals for the United States population: 1999-2000. Advance Data from Vital and Health Statistics, number 341.

Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics, 2004

Daniel König, Klaus Muser, Hans-Hermann Dickhuth, Aloys Berg and Peter Deibert
Effect of a supplement rich in alkaline minerals on acid-base balance in humans
Nutrition Journal. 10 June 2009; 8:23

Motil KJ, Altchuler SI, Grand RJ.
Mineral balance during nutritional supplementation in adolescents with Crohn disease and growth failure.
J Pediatr. 1985 Sep;107(3):473-9.

Nielsen FH, Milne DB, Gallagher S, Johnson L, Hoverson B.
Moderate magnesium deprivation results in calcium retention and altered potassium and phosphorus excretion by postmenopausal women.
Magnes Res. 2007 Mar;20(1):19-31.

Office of Dietary Supplements
http://ods.od.nih.gov/

Sebastian A, Harris ST, Ottaway JH, Todd KM, Morris RC Jr.
Improved mineral balance and skeletal metabolism in postmenopausal women treated with potassium bicarbonate.
N Engl J Med. 1994 Jun 23;330(25):1776-81.

Tucker KL, Hannan MT, Chen H, Cupples LA, Wilson PW, Kiel DP.
Potassium, magnesium, and fruit and vegetable intakes are associated with greater bone mineral density in elderly men and women.
Am J Clin Nutr. 1999 Apr;69(4):727-36.

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

Iodine Deficiency

iodinebookBeyond its role in antisepsis and breast health, iodine is perhaps best known for its regulatory function in the thyroid gland. Educators at the Linus Pauling Institute reiterate the mineral’s essentiality to the thyroid hormones, commonly listed as T3 and T4 on a blood test. T3 is the physiologically active form, while T4 is the more abundant circulating form. In targeted tissues, T4 is converted to T3 by enzymes that depend on selenium for their activity. In this manner, the thyroid comes to control growth and development, metabolism, and reproductive function. Can you see the need for selenium? In the absence of sufficient iodine, the pituitary gland will secrete thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) in an attempt to set things straight by increasing iodine trapping mechanisms. If TSH levels are persistently elevated, the thyroid gland may enlarge and form what is known as a goiter.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that about a third of the world’s population is deficient in iodine, a deficit that is the most common cause of preventable brain damage in the world. The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine declares that iodine is responsible for myelination of the developing central nervous system, and that deficiency is associated with mental retardation, and in extreme cases, cretinism. More than thirty percent of children under twelve has insufficient iodine intake. Although iodized salt was intended to prevent iodine deficiency, the modern diet has put it away in favor of salts whose iodine values are inconsistent and perhaps even absent, as might be the case with the kosher salts that took over the culinary arts. The American Journal of Hypertension and its Polish counterpart report that those adults who choose to avoid salt in any form to control their sodium-sensitive high blood pressure may be realizing small benefit in the long run unless they fortify their diets with iodine from other sources.

Just as we are barraged with loud TV commercials for products in which we have little or no interest, we are likewise assaulted with chemicals and synthetic agents about which we know nothing and whose ubiquitous presence is hidden. Manufacturers of consumer goods apparently feel the need to add things to their products for our own good when, in truth, it’s for their bottom line. Among these ruinous substances is bromine, a member of the chemical family called halides, a group that includes fluorine, chlorine, iodine and astatine, the last having no biological value whatsoever to humans.  Bromine hides in a few forms—as methyl bromide and ethylene dibromide, used as fumigants. In the produce business, they relieve fresh fruits and vegetables of their B vitamins. Bromide is found in cleaners, dyes, water sanitation processes, pharmaceuticals, flame retardants in our kids’ PJs, and in our foods as brominated flour, brominated vegetable oil (BVO) and who knows what else.  BVO is used to make citrus-flavored soft drinks cloudy-looking by emulsifying ingredients to keep the flavoring suspended in the liquid.  Bromine, which has zero use by the body, pushes iodine out of the thyroid gland. Because it acts like iodine and chlorine, the body accepts it. Puzzlement is that bromine is listed in the Hazardous Substances Data Bank of the National Library of Medicine, yet is allowed as a food additive in the Federal Code. In one of his blog postings, Dr. David Brownstein, a celebrated holistic physician, explains that it is vital to maintain optimal iodine levels. Our constant exposure to chemicals like bromine requires daily iodine supplementation because bromine will either prevent iodine absorption or push out that which is already there. At 150 micrograms a day, the RDA for iodine is woefully inadequate to address our physiological needs.  Knowing that bromine is present in some psychotropic drugs helps us to understand why some patients never get well. They are iodine depleted.

There is little doubt among researchers that iodine deficiency is epidemic. Dr. Mark Sircus acknowledges the toxicity of another halogen—fluoride.  He points out that all the halogens use the same receptors in the body, and that the toxic ones will displace iodine at the first opportunity, but also that the intake of supplemental iodine can increase the excretion of the other halides, and even of heavy metals. Note that the toothpaste tube admonishes us not to let a child swallow his fluoridated dentifrice. Adults, likewise, are warned not to swallow more than used on the brush.  Hailed as one of the greatest health achievements of the 20th century, fluoridation of water is now limited, being cited as harmful to the liver and kidneys.

If you or a loved one is concerned about thyroid function, know that fluoride is used in Europe to treat hyperthyroidism because it reduces thyroid activity. If you have symptoms of hypothyroid—fatigue, sensitivity to cold, constipation, dry skin, puffiness, muscle weakness, thinning hair, slowed heart rate and mental fog—look at your toothpaste, your municipal or well water supply, black tea, pesticides, Teflon, moisture barriers, some drugs, refrigerants, certain medical scanning procedures, and your dentist.

An oddity of halogens is that their clinical activity is in inverse proportion to their atomic weights. A lighter one will displace a heavier one. The opposite does not hold. Of those in the body, iodine is the heaviest. Regular use of iodine will mitigate the damage from the others. Knowing that liquid iodine preparations work more efficiently than the solid forms can help you to make the right supplement choice.

References

Victoria J. Drake, Ph.D.
Iodine
Linus Pauling Institute Micronutrient Information Center. Mar 2010. Update
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Dunn JT.
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Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine. Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Arsenic, Boron, Chromium, Copper, Iodine, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Nickel, Silicon, Vanadium, and Zinc. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2002. Available at: www.nap.edu/books/0309072794/html/.
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Hetzel BS, Clugston GA. Iodine. In: Shils M, Olson JA, Shike M, Ross AC, eds.
Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease.
9th ed. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins; 1999:253-264.

Larsen PR, Davies TF, Hay ID. The thyroid gland. In: Wilson JD, Foster DW, Kronenberg HM, Larsen PR, eds. Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 9th ed. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders Company; 1998:389-515.

R. L. Metcalf . From the “Introduction” to Chapter 7, “Fluorine-containing insecticides”, (Handbook of  Experimental Pharmacol. XX.1, pp. 355-386, Springer, Berlin-Heidelberg-New York, 1966):

Dr. Mark Sircus blogs
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Santoyo-Sanchez MP, Del Carmen Silva-Lucero M, Arreola-Mendoza L, Barbier OC.
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Zhao P, Guo X, Zheng C.
Removal of elemental mercury by iodine-modified rice husk ash sorbents.
J Environ Sci (China). 2010;22(10):1629-36.

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