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The Dangers Of Dietary And Nutritional Supplements Investigated

What you don’t know about these 12 ingredients could hurt you

We North Americans do love our dietary supplements. More than half of the adult population have taken them to stay healthy, lose weight, gain an edge in sports or in the bedroom, and avoid using prescription drugs. In 2009, we spent $26.7 billion on them, according to the Nutrition Business Journal, a trade publication.

What consumers might not realize, though, is that supplement manufacturers routinely, and legally, sell their products without first having to demonstrate that they are safe and effective. The Food and Drug Administration has not made full use of even the meager authority granted it by the industry-friendly 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA).

As a result, the supplement marketplace is not as safe as it should be.

  • We have identified a dozen supplement ingredients that we think consumers should avoid because of health risks, including cardiovascular, liver, and kidney problems. We found products with those ingredients readily available in stores and online.
  • Because of inadequate quality control and inspection, supplements contaminated with heavy metals, pesticides, or prescription drugs have been sold to unsuspecting consumers. And FDA rules covering manufacturing quality don’t apply to the companies that supply herbs, vitamins, and other raw ingredients.
  • China, which has repeatedly been caught exporting contaminated products, is a major supplier of raw supplement ingredients. The FDA has yet to inspect a single factory there.

The lack of oversight leaves consumers like John Coolidge, 55, of Signal Mountain, Tenn., vulnerable. He started taking a supplement called Total Body Formula to improve his general health. But instead, he says, beginning in February 2008, he experienced one symptom after another: diarrhea, joint pain, hair loss, lung problems, and fingernails and toenails that fell off. “It just tore me up,” he said.

Eventually, hundreds of other reports of adverse reactions to the product came to the attention of the FDA, which inspected the manufacturer’s facilities and tested the contents of the products. Most of the samples contained more than 200 times the labeled amount of selenium and up to 17 times the recommended intake of chromium, according to the FDA.

In March 2008 the distributor voluntarily recalled the products involved. Coolidge is suing multiple companies for compensatory damages; they have denied the claims in court papers. His nails and hair have grown back, but he said he still suffers from serious breathing problems.

The dirty dozen

Working with experts from the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, an independent research group, we identified a group of ingredients (out of nearly 1,100 in the database) linked to serious adverse events by clinical research or case reports. To come up with our dozen finalists, we also considered factors such as whether the ingredients were effective for their purported uses and how readily available they were to consumers. We then shopped for them online and in stores near our Yonkers, N.Y., headquarters and easily found all of them for sale in June 2010.

The dozen are aconite, bitter orange, chaparral, colloidal silver, coltsfoot, comfrey, country mallow, germanium, greater celandine, kava, lobelia, and yohimbe. The FDA has warned about at least eight of them, some as long ago as 1993.

Why are they still for sale? Two national retailers we contacted about specific supplements said they carried them because the FDA has not banned them. The agency has “the authority to immediately remove them from the market, and we would follow the FDA recommendation,” said a spokeswoman for the Vitamin Shoppe chain.

Most of the products we bought had warning labels, but not all did. A bottle of silver we purchased was labeled “perfectly safe,” with an asterisked note that said the FDA had not evaluated the claim. In fact, the FDA issued a consumer advisory about silver (including colloidal silver) in 2009, with good reason: Sold for its supposed immune system “support,” it can permanently turn skin bluish-gray.

Janis Dowd, 56, of Bartlesville, Okla., says she started taking colloidal silver in 2000 after reading online that it would keep her Lyme disease from returning. She says her skin changed color so gradually that she didn’t notice, but others did. “They kept saying, ‘You look a little blue.'”

Laser treatments have erased almost all the discoloration from Dowd’s face and neck, but she said it’s not feasible to treat the rest of her body.

Under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), it is difficult for the FDA to put together strong enough evidence to order products off the market. To date, it has banned only one ingredient, ephedrine alkaloids. That effort dragged on for a decade, during which ephedra weight-loss products were implicated in thousands of adverse events, including deaths. Instead of attempting any more outright bans, the agency issued warnings, detained imported products, and asked companies to recall products it considered unsafe.

No scientific backup required

Of the more than 54,000 dietary supplement products in the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, only about a third have some level of safety and effectiveness that is supported by scientific evidence, according to a review by NMCD experts. And close to 12 percent have been linked to safety concerns or problems with product quality.

Consider the path to market of Go Away Gray, a product that is claimed to “help stop your hair from turning gray.” Cathy Beggan, president of the supplement’s maker, Rise-N-Shine, based in New Jersey, said that her company has not had to provide product information to the FDA. Nor did it conduct any clinical trials of the supplement, which includes a natural enzyme called catalase, before putting it on sale. Beggan pointed us to a study by European researchers published in the July 2009 issue of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Journal. The study found that gray hair had lower-than-normal levels of catalase but did not prove that taking that enzyme by mouth would stop hair from turning gray. “We are working on getting an actual clinical trial going because the results have been so amazing, and it would just be good to have some concrete data behind it,” Beggan said.

Consumers in the dark about dangers

In March 2008, Marques Parke, 29, a plumber from Janesville, Wis., took a weight-loss supplement called Hydroxycut because he wanted to lose 5 pounds, he said. Within weeks he was stricken with acute hepatitis and jaundice. He is suing the manufacturer and others. An attorney representing the defendants said they intended to contest the claims.

The FDA had received its first adverse-event report about Hydroxycut in 2002, long before Parke started taking it. In May 2009, by which point Parke’s liver was already damaged, the agency warned consumers to stop using Hydroxycut, and the manufacturer, Iovate Health Sciences, voluntarily recalled some of its products, its attorney said.

The company had frequently reformulated the product, according to the FDA, which said it didn’t know which ingredients produced the liver toxicity. The FDA said that Hydroxycut presented “a severe, potentially life-threatening hazard to some users” and had been linked to two reported deaths. Hydroxycut has been reformulated and is on the market again. An FDA representative told us the agency considers the new version acceptable.

Amazingly, for the first 13 years after the enactment of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), supplement makers didn’t have to inform the FDA if they received reports of serious adverse events, an obligation that’s required for prescription drugs. A law that took effect in December 2007 closed that loophole, and in 2008 and 2009 the FDA said it received 1,359 reports of serious adverse effects from manufacturers and 602 from consumers and health professionals. But even with the new law, consumers can’t easily find out which products are involved because the FDA doesn’t routinely make those reports available to the public.

Exaggerated claims

It’s against the law for companies to claim that any supplement can prevent, treat, or cure any disease except some nutrient-deficiency conditions. But in the past two years, the Federal Trade Commission has filed or settled 30 cases against supplement marketers, charging that they made exactly those kinds of claims. It reached a $7.5 million settlement with the QVC home-shopping channel. And the FDA has recently taken legal action against a few supplement manufacturers that claimed their products could prevent or treat a disease.

Undercover investigators from the Government Accountability Office, posing as elderly consumers, caught salespeople on tape dispensing potentially harmful medical advice. In one case, a salesperson told an investigator that a garlic supplement could be taken in lieu of high blood pressure medicine.

What you can do

The FDA and Congress have recently taken some action to strengthen the agency’s oversight, such as passing a law requiring that companies report serious adverse events. But much more needs to be done to keep consumers safe. In the meantime, here are steps you can take to make sure the supplements you use are safe and beneficial.

Consult your doctor or pharmacist. Even helpful products can be harmful in some situations, such as when you’re pregnant or nursing, have a chronic disease, or are about to have elective surgery. And some supplements might be fine on their own but interact with certain prescription drugs. Your doctor or pharmacist can steer you away from such problems only if they know what supplements you’re taking or plan to take.

Beware of these categories. Supplements for weight loss, sexual enhancement, and bodybuilding have been problematic, the FDA said, because some contain steroids and prescription drugs. Lose weight through diet and exercise, get fit through training, and consult your doctor if you need help in the bedroom.

Look for the “USP Verified” mark. It indicates that the supplement manufacturer has voluntarily asked U.S. Pharmacopeia, a trusted nonprofit, private standards-setting authority, to verify the quality, purity, and potency of its raw ingredients or finished products. USP maintains a list of verified products on its website.

Don’t assume more is better. It’s possible to overdose even on beneficial vitamins and minerals. Avoid any product that is claimed to contain “megadoses.”

Report problems. Let your doctor know if you experience any symptoms after you start taking a supplement. And if you end up with a serious side effect, ask your doctor or pharmacist to report it to the FDA, or do it yourself at http://www.fda.gov/medwatch or by calling 800-332-1088.

Research in the right places. Be skeptical about claims made for supplements in ads, on TV, and by sales staff. If a claim sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Instead, try these sources:

  • The National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements.
  • The FDA, for alerts, advisories, and other actions.
  • Consumer Reports Health’s dietary supplements and natural health products information.

Your ‘all natural’ supplement might contain drugs

Consumers might be attracted to dietary supplements because they’re “all natural” and don’t contain the synthetic chemicals found in prescription drugs. But they might be getting fooled.

In the past two years, according to the Food and Drug Administration, manufacturers have voluntarily recalled more than 80 bodybuilding supplements that contained synthetic steroids or steroid-like substances, 50 sexual-enhancement products that contained sildenafil (Viagra) or other erectile-dysfunction drugs, and 40 weight-loss supplements containing sibutramine (Meridia) and other drugs.

Unwitting purchasers

“We’re talking about very serious risks and injuries that can happen to people—and often young people—who do not understand that they’re taking prescription drugs and steroids,” Joshua M. Sharfstein, M.D., the FDA’s principal deputy commissioner, told the U.S. Senate’s special committee on aging in May 2010.

In 2005, eager to make the most of his baseball scholarship at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Mo., Jareem Gunter started taking a supplement he found online that promised to improve his athletic performance and claimed to be “legal,” he recalls. But he soon began feeling fatigued, and when the whites of his eyes turned yellow, he said, he went to the hospital. “I woke up in the morning and the doctor was sitting by my bedside,” Gunter said. “He told me, ‘Your liver’s failed. You only had a couple of days left to live if you hadn’t come in.'” The supplement turned out to contain a synthetic steroid, which cost Gunter his scholarship, he claimed in a lawsuit that was settled before the trial date, according to public court documents. He’s now 27 and living in Oakland, Calif. His health is much improved and he is working for a charitable organization and playing baseball in his hometown league.

Use with caution

Hazardous ingredients have been known to turn up in dietary supplements marketed for weight loss, bodybuilding, and sexual enhancement. And in light of the potentially serious health risks—including dangerous changes in blood pressure, serious liver injury, kidney failure, heart attack, and stroke—we think consumers should be extremely cautious with those categories of products or avoid them.

12 supplements you should avoid

These supplement ingredients are among those linked by clinical research or case reports to serious side effects. We worked with the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, an independent research group that evaluates the safety and effectiveness of nutritional supplements, to develop this list. We think it’s wise to avoid all the ingredients on it. Unless otherwise noted, there’s insufficient evidence to rate their effectiveness for their purported uses. Dangers listed are not meant to be all-inclusive.

Name
(also known as)
Purported uses Possible dangers Comments
ACONITE
(aconiti tuber, aconitum, radix aconiti)
Inflammation, joint pain, wounds, gout. Toxicity, nausea, vomiting, low blood pressure, respiratory-system paralysis, heart-rhythm disorders, death. Unsafe. Aconite is the most common cause of severe herbal poisoning in Hong Kong.
BITTER ORANGE
(aurantii fructus, Citrus aurantium, zhi shi)
Weight loss, nasal congestion, allergies. Fainting, heart-rhythm disorders, heart attack, stroke, death. Possibly unsafe. Contains synephrine, which is similar to ephedrine, banned by the FDA in 2004. Risks might be higher when taken with herbs that contain caffeine.
CHAPARRAL
(creosote bush, Larrea divaricata, larreastat)
Colds, weight loss, infections, inflammation, cancer, detoxification. Liver damage, kidney problems. Likely unsafe. The FDA advises people not to take chaparral.
COLLOIDAL SILVER
(ionic silver, native silver, Silver in suspending agent)
Fungal and other infections, Lyme disease, rosacea, psoriasis, food poisoning, chronic fatigue syndrome, HIV/AIDS. Bluish skin, mucous membrane discoloration, neurological problems, kidney damage. Likely unsafe. The FDA advised consumers about the risk of discoloration on Oct. 6, 2009.
COLTSFOOT
(coughwort, farfarae folium leaf, foalswort)
Cough, sore throat, laryngitis, bronchitis, asthma. Liver damage, cancer. Likely unsafe.
COMFREY
(blackwort, common comfrey, slippery root)
Cough, heavy menstrual periods, chest pain, cancer. Liver damage, cancer. Likely unsafe. The FDA advised manufacturers to remove comfrey products from the market in July 2001.
COUNTRY MALLOW
(heartleaf, Sida cordifolia, silky white mallow)
Nasal congestion, allergies, asthma, weight loss, bronchitis. Heart attack, heart arrhythmia, stroke, death. Likely unsafe. Possible dangers linked with its ephedrine alkaloids banned by the FDA in 2004.
GERMANIUM
(Ge, Ge-132, germanium-132)
Pain, infections, glaucoma, liver problems, arthritis, osteoporosis, heart disease, HIV/AIDS, cancer. Kidney damage, death. Likely unsafe. The FDA warned in 1993 that it was linked to serious adverse events.
GREATER CELANDINE
(celandine, chelidonii herba, Chelidonium majus)
Upset stomach, irritable bowel syndrome, liver disorders, detoxification, cancer. Liver damage. Possibly unsafe.
KAVA
(awa, Piper methysticum, kava-kava)
Anxiety (possibly effective). Liver damage. Possibly unsafe. The FDA issued a warning to consumers in March 2002. Banned in Germany, Canada, and Switzerland.
LOBELIA
(asthma weed, Lobelia inflata, pukeweed, vomit wort)
Coughing, bronchitis, asthma, smoking cessation (possibly ineffective). Toxicity; overdose can cause fast heartbeat, very low blood pressure, coma, possibly death. Likely unsafe. The FDA warned in 1993 that it was linked to serious adverse events.
YOHIMBE
(yohimbine, Corynanthe yohimbi, Corynanthe johimbi)
Aphrodisiac, chest pain, diabetic complications, depression; erectile dysfunction (possibly effective). Usual doses can cause high blood pressure, rapid heart rate; high doses can cause severe low blood pressure, heart problems, death. Possibly unsafe for use without medical supervision because it contains a prescription drug, yohimbine. The FDA warned in 1993 that reports of serious adverse events were under investigation.

Clarification: Source: Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, Professional Version, June 2010 

11 supplements to consider

These popular supplements, listed in alphabetical order, have been shown to likely be safe for most people and possibly or likely to be effective in appropriate doses for certain conditions. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist before starting any supplement. Most supplements haven’t been studied in pregnant or nursing women. The list of interactions and side effects is not all-inclusive.

Name
(also known as)
Efficacy for selected uses Selected potential side effects Selected drug interactions
CALCIUM
(calcium carbonate, calcium citrate, calcium gluconate)
Likely effective in combination with vitamin D in preventing and treating bone loss and osteoporosis. Taken daily, appears to reduce some PMS symptoms. Belching, gas. Calcium can decrease the effectiveness of certain antibiotics, osteoporosis drugs, and thyroid drugs.
CRANBERRY
(American cranberry, large cranberry, cranberry extract)
Possibly effective for preventing recurrent urinary-tract infections. Large amounts can cause stomach upset, diarrhea. Might increase the effects of the blood thinner warfarin.
FISH OIL
(EPA/DHA, omega-3 fatty acids, PUFA)
Effective for reducing triglyceride levels. Likely effective for decreasing the risk of heart attack, stroke, and progression of hardening of the arteries in people with existing heart disease. Fishy aftertaste, upset stomach, nausea, loose stools. High doses can increase levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol in some people or increase the chance of bleeding. Might increase the effect of blood-thinning drugs and high blood pressure medications.
GLUCOSAMINE SULFATE
(G6S, glucosamine sulfate 2KCl, glucosamine sulfate-potassium chloride)
Likely effective treatment for reducing symptoms of osteoarthritis of the knee. Might also help slow progression of osteoarthritis. Nausea, heartburn, diarrhea, constipation, headache. Might increase the blood-thinning effect of warfarin and cause bruising and bleeding.
LACTASE
(beta-galactosidase)
Likely effective for reducing gastrointestinal symptoms in lactoseintolerant people when used before consuming lactose or when added to milk. No reported side effects. None known.
LACTOBACILLUS
(acidophilus, acidophilus lactobacillus, probiotics)
Possibly effective for preventing diarrhea while taking antibiotics. Gas. People with poor immune function should check with their doctor first. Might cause infection in people taking immunosuppressant drugs.
PSYLLIUM
(blond plantago, blonde psyllium, plantago, isabgola)
Effective as a bulk laxative for reducing constipation or softening stools. Likely effective for lowering cholesterol in people with mild to moderately high cholesterol. Gas, stomach pain, diarrhea, constipation, nausea. Some people can have a serious allergic response that requires immediate medical attention. Might decrease the effectiveness of carbamazepine, an antiseizure drug; digoxin, a heart drug; and lithium, for bipolar disorder. Might cause low blood sugar when taken with some diabetes drugs.
PYGEUM
(African plum tree, African prune, Prunus africana)
Likely effective for reducing symptoms of an enlarged prostate. Nausea, abdominal pain. None known.
SAMe
(ademetionine, adenosylmethionine, S-Adenosyl-L-Methionine, sammy)
Likely effective in reducing symptoms of major depression, reducing pain, and improving functioning in people with osteoarthritis. GI symptoms, dry mouth, headache, mild insomnia, anorexia, sweating, dizziness, and nervousness, especially at higher doses. It can make some people with depression feel anxious. Might lead to a toxic reaction when taken with the cough suppressant dextromethorphan, certain antidepressants, or narcotic pain relievers. Might worsen symptoms when taken with the Parkinson’s drug levodopa.
ST. JOHN’S WORT
(Hypericum perforatum, Saynt Johannes Wort, SJW)
Likely effective for improving symptoms of some forms of depression. Insomnia, vivid dreams, anxiety, dizziness, headache, skin rash, and tingling. It can cause skin to become extra-sensitive to the sun. Can decrease the effectiveness of a wide range of drugs, including birth-control pills, heart medications, HIV/AIDS drugs, and warfarin. Might also increase the effects or side effects of certain antidepressants.
VITAMIN D
(Cholecalciferol, vitamin D3, ergocalciferol, vitamin D2)
Likely effective when taken with calcium to help prevent osteoporosis. Might help reduce falls in people with vitamin D deficiency and bone loss in people taking corticosteroids. Extremely large amounts might cause weakness, fatigue, headache, and nausea, though side effects are rare. Might reduce the effectiveness of some medications, such as atorvastatin (Lipitor), other heart medications, birth-control pills, HIV/AIDS drugs.

Clarification: Source: Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, Professional Version, June 2010 

September 2010                 source: www.consumerreports.org
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This Mineral Fights Depression — And It Is Cheaper And Safer Than Drugs

The supplement starts to take effect after only two weeks, the researchers found.

Over-the-counter magnesium is a safe and effective way to treat mild to moderate depression, a new study suggests.

The mineral magnesium has already been linked to lower inflammation and improvements in depression.

Now a new randomised controlled trial has tested the effects of magnesium chloride supplements compared with no treatment.

For the research, half of 126 people with mild to moderate depression were given 248 mg of magnesium chloride per day for six weeks.

After just two weeks, some positive effects of the supplement could be seen.

Those taking magnesium had clinically significant improvements over the six weeks.

People did not have any problems taking magnesium and there were no differences based on sex, age, whether people were also taking antidepressants, or other factors.

More than half of the people in the study said they would continue to take magnesium to help them with their depression.

Ms Emily Tarleton, the study’s first author, said:

“This is the first randomized clinical trial looking at the effect of magnesium supplementation on symptoms of depression in U.S. adults.
The results are very encouraging, given the great need for additional treatment options for depression, and our finding that magnesium supplementation provides a safe, fast and inexpensive approach to controlling depressive symptoms.”

Ms Tarleton says that the next stage is to move on to larger populations to see if the results can be replicated.

While many more studies have investigated antidepressant medications, there is also much evidence of their side-effects.

A survey of people taking antidepressants has found higher than expected levels of emotional numbness, sexual problems and even suicidal thoughts associated with the medication.

Of the 20 adverse effects to antidepressants that people were questioned about:

  • 62% said they had ‘sexual difficulties’,
  • 52% said they ‘didn’t feel like themselves’,
  • 42% noticed a ‘reduction in positive feelings’,
  • 39% found themselves ‘caring less about others’,
  • and 55% reported ‘withdrawal effects’.

The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE (Tarleton et al., 2017).

 
JULY 12, 2017
source: PsyBlog


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7 Essential Vitamins You Need After Age 40

Think of vitamins and nutrients as an army that will fight off age-related ailments. And the best way to build this army is by eating a healthy, well-rounded diet, says Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, manager of wellness nutrition programs at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. While it’s always important to eat well, it becomes especially essential around age 40 because that’s when the rules start to change, she says.

“Your body probably isn’t working the same way at 40-plus as it was at 20,” she says. Muscle mass starts to deteriorate, we’re much more likely to put on weight, menopause may (or may soon) start, and risk of chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes begins to increase—which means your battle plan needs to start looking a little different.

One solution is getting enough of the right vitamins and nutrients, which is possible through healthy eating—and food sources are typically (but not always) a better bet than supplements because they’re better absorbed, Kirkpatrick says. Below, the key nutrients to look out for, and the best ways to get them.

Vitamin B12

Once you turn 40 (and definitely after turning 50), vitamin B12 should be on your radar. It’s essential for normal blood and brain function, Kirkpatrick says. And while children and younger adults are likely to get the B12 they need from food—it’s in meat and animal products including chicken, fish, dairy, and eggs—B12 is more poorly absorbed as the body ages, typically starting around 50 because that’s when stomach acid levels deplete. (Check out The Power Nutrient Solution, the first-ever plan that tackles the root cause of virtually every major ailment and health condition.)

Any time after 40 and before turning 50 is a good time to start getting B12 from a supplement or multivitamin. Aim for 2.4 mg per day (the current recommended dietary allowance), though there’s no need to worry about taking too much, Kirkpatrick adds. Because it’s a water-soluble vitamin, you pee out what you don’t need.

Calcium

It’s hard to know what to think about calcium: A recent analysis of 59 studies designed to measure the role it plays in preventing fractures for men and women older than 50 found that increasing calcium intake—either from foods or supplements—was not likely to significantly reduce fracture risk. And other research has linked calcium supplements to increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and cardiac death for postmenopausal women.

But even though our bones absorb most of the calcium they need earlier in life (typically before age 30), the nutrient does play a role in maintaining bone health later in life, too, according to Kirkpatrick. The nutrient is needed for other basic body functions like muscle contraction, nerve and heart functioning, and other biochemical reactions—and if you’re not getting enough calcium from your diet, the body steals calcium from your bones (and weakens them).

The bottom line is that you do need calcium at 40 and beyond, but these latest findings tell us you don’t need to go overboard, because more calcium does not necessarily mean more benefit, and may even be harmful to heart health, she says. Most women can get the calcium they need—1000 mg a day for women 40 to 50, and 1200 mg for women older than 50—if they eat a well-rounded diet with calcium-rich foods like dairy, tofu, sardines, broccoli, almond, and spinach.

Vitamin D

D is a biggie, Kirkpatrick says—and especially after 40, because it helps protect against the age-related changes that start to kick in. Deficiencies in vitamin D have been linked to diabetes, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, and breast and colorectal cancers—all of which are more likely to crop up the older you get. Plus, D is essential for absorption of calcium in the body, she says.
Dietary sources include fish and fortified dairy, grains, and cereals, but generally the D you get from food is poorly absorbed. The sun is the best source of the vitamin, but not everyone lives close enough to the equator to be exposed to the strong rays that will actual deliver the D you need, Kirkpatrick explains.

“If you’re living anywhere above Georgia, you’re probably not getting enough vitamin D from the sun,”she says. Plus you don’t absorb it with sunscreen on—and you definitely don’t want to be hanging out in the sun without sunscreen (despite any vitamin D benefits). She recommends a D3 supplement (D3 being the type of vitamin D closest to what you would get from the sun). You should be getting at least 600 IU per day (and 800 IU per day after 50) according to current National Institutes of Health recommendations. Though the recommendations note the tolerable upper limit (i.e. the amount that will not cause harm) is as much as 4,000 IU per day.

suppliments

Magnesium

A key function of magnesium is to help regulate blood pressure, which is especially important for women 40-plus, who are already at risk of high blood due to normal aging. Deficiencies in magnesium have been linked to heart disease, diabetes, and inflammation, Kirkpatrick adds. Plus, it helps the body absorb calcium and plays a role in muscle, nerve, and heart function, as well as blood glucose control.

Your doc can run your magnesium levels if you think you might be deficient (and would need a supplement). But if you’re eating a healthy, balanced diet, you’re likely to get all the magnesium you need (320 mg a day for women 40 and up) from food, Kirkpatrick says—it’s found in dark leafy greens, beans, soy, nuts, seeds, and avocados. Too much magnesium does not necessarily pose health risks, but may cause diarrhea, nausea, or cramping.

Potassium

Potassium plays a key role in keeping blood pressure in check, no matter your age, Kirkpatrick says. And in post-menopausal women, research has linked higher intake of potassium from food to decreased risk of stroke—though “high” intake was considered approximately 3.1 g, which is still lower than the recommended 4.7 g per day. And the benefits were seen in those getting as little as 2 g per day, says study author Sylvia Wassertheil-Smoller, PhD, professor in the department of epidemiology & population health at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Potassium is definitely a nutrient you want to be getting enough of, but unless your MD prescribes it for another medical condition, Kirkpatrick cautions against taking potassium supplements. Too much potassium can damage the gastrointestinal tract and the heart, and can cause potentially life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias. Most people can get the potassium they need by eating a varied, healthy diet including bananas, sweet potatoes, chard, beans, and lentils—and you’re really unlikely to get enough potassium in your diet to be dangerous, Kirkpatrick says. If your doctor does prescribe supplements, she should be carefully monitoring how they’re affecting you, she says.

Omega-3s

Technically not a vitamin, omega-3 fatty acids still deserve a place on this list because of their myriad health benefits, Kirkpatrick says—and especially because they help counteract some of the negative changes that come with aging, like increased heart disease risk and cognitive decline. Research has shown that omega-3s help lower blood pressure and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels, reduce the risk of heart disease, and play a role in keeping memory and thinking sharp.

In fact, a recent study found that people who consumed more omega-3 fatty acids had larger brains and performed better on memory tests, planning activities, and abstract thinking than individuals who had lower levels of omega-3s in their blood—which suggest omega-3 fatty acids play a role in maintaining brain health through aging in addition to the other known benefits, says the study’s lead author Zaldy S. Tan, MD, MPH, medical director of the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care Program at UCLA.

Though you can get omega-3s from foods like fish, walnuts, flax seeds, and leafy vegetables, taking a supplement is a good way to make sure you’re getting enough, Kirkpatrick says. Either way, aim for 500 mg if you’re healthy, 800 to 1,000 mg if you have heart disease, and 2,000 to 4,000 mg if you have high triglycerides. And be sure to ask your doctor about the right dose if you’re taking anti-coagulant drugs, which can have serious side effects.

Probiotics

Probiotics are not technically vitamins or minerals either, but when it comes to talking about the essentials for women 40 and up, they’re really important, Kirkpatrick says. Mounting evidence suggests probiotics play a role in keeping the gut healthy and weight down, and even lowering risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke—all of which is especially important around 40 when muscle mass starts to decrease, making it easier to put on weight and develop insulin resistance.

And though you can get probiotics in some dairy and fermented soy products like seitan, foods typically will not contain as many strains as a supplement—and each strain comes with its own benefit, some for helping to control weight, others for helping prevent diarrhea. Plus, because probiotics are actually live and active cultures, you won’t be able to get them from foods that are cooked or heated.

By SARAH DIGIULIO   OCTOBER 21, 2015
source: www.prevention.com


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The Supplements You Absolutely Need To Take

“I eat a healthy, plant-based, balanced diet, so why do I need to take supplements?”

I know, I know. I was singing the same tune myself not so long ago. There’s no definitive answer, as every body is vastly unique, and there are many people who can get away with taking no supplements at all. The truth, though, is that we’re all quite deficient in certain areas without evening knowing it.

There are two “golden supplements” that I personally recommend in addition to a plant-based, intuitive eating plan.

  1. A high-quality fish oil (or vegan alternative).
  2. A high quality probiotic.

“I eat fish, why do I need to take fish oil?”

The answer is that a high-quality fish oil supplement provides concentrated, clean nutrition that supports healthy cholesterol levels, eye health, cardiovascular health and joint health, to name a few.

I’m not going to recommend a particular fish oil because, again, our bodies are different as are our budgets and physical needs. What I will give you are some MUSTS in terms of selecting a fish oil supplement:

  • Third Party-Tested Product (preferably IFOS, International Fish Oil Standards, tested). This guarantees that the fish oil you’re consuming is pure, and that the peroxide, anisidine, PCBs, heavy metals, lead and mercury levels, among other things, have been tested and deemed low or practically nonexistent.
  • Concentration. Check the labels. Do you need to take five capsules of one brand to get the same amount of omega-3s you’d get in one capsule from another brand? The labels are tricky. All in all, you end up getting the same bang for your buck but with a lower quality product. So investigate the numbers and don’t be afraid to hound the health food store staff with your questions!
  • Enteric Coated. Having an enteric coating on your fish oil capsules ensures that the supplement will make it into the intestines, where it can be assimilated by the body. This coating protects our stomach acid from dissolving the capsule before it ever makes it to the small intestine. Without this coating the capsule is obliterated by the body’s powerful stomach acids and you’re not only losing out on the nutrients, but you’re wasting your money!

 

fish oil

Ok, so we have fish oil covered. Now, why take a probiotic? 

It’s simple. To improve digestive health. Probiotics are known to support the immune system, yeast balance, and balance ailments such as constipation, indigestion, gas, bloating, yeast infections, candida and the side effects of antibiotics.

Eighty percent of our immune support resides in our gut. There are three times the number of bacteria in our tummy alone (trillions) than there are cells in our entire body!

So, how do you go about choosing a probiotic?

First and foremost, there are shelf-stable probiotics and there are refrigerated probiotics. Typically, the difference in these two is potency. Refrigerated probiotics will have higher potency, typically 5-200 billion CFUs (colony-forming units), while shelf-stable probiotics will offer anywhere from 1-10 billion CFUs.

When you look at the plethora of toxins many of us have been exposed to through food, medication and environment throughout our lifetime, we can really use all the digestive support we can get. Even the most health-conscious clean eater would benefit immensely from the lowest strain probiotic. Proper digestion is truly the key to our overall health.

When selecting a probiotic to help balance your digestive health, be on the lookout for these MUSTS:

  • Guaranteed potency THROUGH the expiration date.
  • High CFU (colony-forming units).
  • Multiple strains (the more L’s, Lactobacillus strains, and more B’s, Bifidobacterium strains, the better).

A good recommendation for someone on a tight budget would be to splurge on a refrigerated, high-potency probiotic to jumpstart the digestive system, then transition to a less expensive, but still high quality (potentially shelf-stable) probiotic for maintenance. Again, this depends entirely on your own body and needs.


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9 Self-Care Essentials To Add To Your Life

BY TRISH ALLAN   NOVEMBER 10, 2013 

There’s been a long-held belief that people are worthy of respect when they put others before themselves. People have often evaluated their own worth (and the degree to which they deserve value in society) by their ability to contribute and place the needs of others before themselves.

Along with this belief is the idea that self-care is self-indulgent. However, we can only sustain physical health and emotional health when self-care is a priority. (This is true for both women and men, despite some old-fashioned gender stereotypes!) When your needs are met, and self-care is a non-negotiable priority, you can come to the world as the best version of yourself; fully nourished and ready to nourish those around you.

In fact, giving yourself permission to take care of yourself is probably the best thing you can do for the people in your life. Not only will you be happier and healthier, but those around you will be, too.

1. Feed yourself the best foods when possible.

Often when we are busy fulfilling our responsibilities, part of the way we make more time is to neglect our own dietary needs. Instead of fully nourishing ourselves, we rely on packaged, microwavable or takeout foods, which lack nutrients and often have an abundance of substances that are detrimental to our health.

Decide to make food a priority for yourself; even for just a short while. Chances are, you’ll feel better at the end of that process, with increased energy and clarity. You can start slowly here, evaluate where you are now, and make plans for small steps. As you learn new strategies for sustaining healthy eating as a regular part of your life, you’ll make more changes and your progress will be exponential.

2. Move everyday.

Our bodies are made for movement. Find time to move daily and to exercise three days a week. Daily movement could be in the form of a walk or gentle yoga. Your three-times-a-week exercise could take whatever form resonates with you most: the gym for cardio, core work and resistance training, swimming, running or power yoga.

3. Make sleep a priority.

For a myriad of reasons, our society is becoming increasingly sleep-deprived. Sleep is significant in our body’s ability to be well. While sleeping, we repair damaged tissues and organs, we metabolize hormones our body no longer needs, and our brains use this time to organize our thoughts and experiences, and to make permanent neurological links (memories) for the learning we experienced that day.

4. Develop a breathing & meditation practice.

When we breathe fully, using our diaphragm, the parasympathetic nervous system becomes engaged. This is the rest and relax system of the body, the opposite of the sympathetic nervous system, which engages during times of crisis or arousal, and which for many people is on much of the time. Allowing the body and mind to believe that all is okay and that it can rest and relax comes with breathing deeply and provides an opportunity for significant repair to the body. Meditation enhances this process further as it allows the brain to change its activity and release calming neurotransmitters.

meditate

5. If possible, do something you really enjoy daily.

If that isn’t sustainable, try weekly, or as often as you can. Take a bath with some Epsom salts and essential oil, write in your journal, buy yourself some flowers. Whatever activity you choose to do, don’t feel guilty about taking the time to do it; remember it’s feeding your soul and increasing your joy.

6. Tweak your supplement routine.

Consider speaking to a healthcare professional such as a nutritionist or naturopath to determine if there are supplements that would enhance your overall health. Many people are lacking in Vitamin D3, iron, digestive enzymes, probiotics, omega-3 or other key nutrients. Using specific foods or supplements will enhance your feeling of wellness and energy.

7. Get outside.

Time in nature is extremely restorative. Visually feasting on the beauty and wonder of nature, placing our feet on the earth, our body in water, and breathing in fresh air is a great act of kindness towards out bodies and minds. If you find time outside healing and pleasurable, make time for it as often as possible.

8. Make time to be alone.

Just as a sense of community is paramount for people, so too is time alone. Often there are feelings of guilt associated with taking time alone, but it is essential for everyone, particularly people who are introverts. Time alone allows people to process their thoughts and experiences and to rejuvenate.

9. Develop a gratitude practice.

Begin your morning with an affirmation, something that builds resiliency in your mind and heart. Perhaps you have a meeting or family responsibility that day that will require some extra effort from you; build your affirmation around the idea that you’ll be successful in that endeavor. For example, “My mind and heart dissolve all fear, doubt and anxiety in me now, I am magnetic to my highest purpose and move through my day with ease and grace.”

Beginning your affirmation with an intention is also very powerful. Then, end your day with gratitude. Write down three things you are grateful about from the day, and reflect on why they were meaningful to you.

Think about what brought you joy or pleasure, what did you appreciate in someone or something. Doing this regularly will change your perceptions of your life, the people in it and your responsibilities.


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How to Treat Cold and Flu Symptoms

Natural Ways to Kick a Cold

WebMD Feature     By Paige Axel      Reviewed By Brunilda Nazario, MD

Trying to get over a cold? There are lots of things you can do to ease the symptoms as you get better. Here some easy ones.

Turn Up the Heat

When a cold strikes, chicken soup and hot tea can ease your symptoms. The reason: heat. As the warmth moves down your throat toward your stomach, it helps loosen mucus, making it easier to cough out.

Steam works the same way. Sitting in the bathroom with a hot shower running can relieve your stuffy nose and head.

Stay Hydrated

When you have a cold, your body makes more mucus. Making mucus uses up your body’s moisture.

Getting extra fluids thins out mucus and makes it less sticky, which makes it easier blow or cough out. Limit drinks with caffeine and alcohol, as they can be dehydrating.


Soothe Your Skin

You blow your nose a lot when you have a cold. The result can be red, chapped skin on and beneath your nose.

Add a dab of petroleum jelly to the raw area, or use facial tissues that contain lotion.

Gargle Salt Water

If you have a sore throat, make a salt-water gargle by mixing a teaspoon of salt in a small glass of warm water. The salty-warm combo provides short-term relief.

Consider Supplements

Some supplements have been found to shorten — but not cure — colds. Ask your doctor about zinc, vitamin C, and echinacea.

Tell your doctor before starting any new supplement or medication. Your doctor will make sure it won’t interact with any other drug you’re taking.

Prevent the Spread

You should stay home while you’re getting over your cold. If you have to go out, try to limit the number of people you come in contact with.

Cover your mouth with the inside of your elbow when you cough or sneeze to keep from getting germs on your hands. A little courtesy goes a long way.

Hang in there. The common cold usually goes away in about a week, so take it easy, take care of yourself, and you’ll be back to normal before you know it. 

 


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The Skinny on Losing Weight with Green Coffee Beans

The latest buzz brewing in the nutrition world is the recent link between green unroasted coffee beans and weight loss. A recent study found that overweight individuals lost a significant percentage of their body weight in a short amount of time when they consumed green coffee bean supplements on a daily basis. Let’s spill the beans on this exciting new information.

The University of Scranton in Pennsylvania study, presented at a meeting of the American Chemical Society, involved 16 overweight or obese individuals who took capsules containing green coffee bean extract. The subjects took low doses of the extract supplement, higher doses of the extract supplement, and placebos over a period of 22 weeks. The subjects took the green coffee bean extract pills 30 minutes before a meal three times a day. 

Throughout the study, the participants did not change their eating habits or exercise regimens. On average the study participants lost 17 pounds. This equaled a total body weight loss of about 10 percent. What’s even more interesting is that the participants also saw a 16 percent decrease in total body fat. This is especially promising because the subjects’ average daily caloric intake was around 2,400 calories and they burned an average of 400 calories through exercise. This calorie level alone would not result in the dramatic weight loss that was observed with the supplemented coffee bean extract.

So what compound in green coffee beans makes them such fat incinerators? Researchers explained that they don’t believe it’s the caffeine. The scientists suggest that the beneficial effects of green coffee beans can be attributed to their chlorogenic acid. However, chlorogenic acid isn’t present in roasted coffee beans because it’s broken down during the roasting process. The study’s lead researcher also points out that there were no negative side effects observed from taking the green coffee bean extract capsules.


Does this mean we should all go out and buy green coffee bean extract with the expectation that our excess weight will just start melting off? Not exactly. When looking at results of emerging research, it’s always imperative that we examine the specifics of the studies themselves. We must also look at the entire body of research rather than focus on the results of a single study before we can draw conclusions. 

Although the results of this study are rather groundbreaking, it’s important to note that this study did have some limitations. The study involved only 16 people, and the study itself was short. Additionally, the subjects in this study took supplements, which isn’t the same as consuming whole foods.  Supplements aren’t regulated in the same way that food is.

The research on green coffee beans is still in its infancy, but the results of this particular study certainly warrant further investigation. Further research, with significantly larger groups of participants that are studied for longer periods of time, is needed before recommendations can be made to general public.

Kari Hartel, RD, LD is a Registered Dietitian and freelance writer based out of St. Louis, MO. Kari is passionate about nutrition education and the prevention of chronic disease through a healthy diet and active lifestyle. Kari holds a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics from Southeast Missouri State University and is committed to helping people lead healthy lives. She completed a yearlong dietetic internship at OSF St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria, IL, where she worked with a multitude of clients and patients with complicated diagnoses. She planned, marketed, and implemented nutrition education programs and cooking demonstrations for the general public as well as for special populations, including patients with cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, obesity, and school-aged children. Contact Kari at KariHartelRD@gmail.com.

source: fitday.com