Category Archives: Supplements

Dementia risk increased with calcium supplements in women with cerebrovascular disease

He's not worried about adequate dietary calcium

He’s not worried about adequate dietary calcium

The paleo diet is relatively low in calcium content. So is that a reason to take a calcium supplement? Probably not. Calcium supplements are problematic. They may increase the risk of heart attacks. They may raise the odds of premature cardiac death in men. High calcium consumption increased the risk of death in Swedish women.

MedicalNewsToday has a brief report on dementia in women with cerebrovascular disease and calcium supplements:

“Calcium supplements may increase the risk of developing dementia in senior women with cerebrovascular disease, finds a study published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Women who took calcium supplements were twice as likely to develop dementia.Cerebrovascular diseases are conditions caused by problems that affect the blood supply to the brain. The four most common types of cerebrovascular disease are stroke, transient ischemic attack (TIA), subarachnoid hemorrhage, and vascular dementia.”

Source: Dementia risk increased with calcium supplements in certain women – Medical News Today

Artificial Sweeteners and the Paleoista

Did you know babies under one year of age shouldn’t be given honey?  I saw that warning on a honey container recently and didn’t know why.  Honey may contain bacterial spores that cause botulism in the wee ones.

A pinch of salt helps reduce bitterness in coffee

Paleo diet aficionados can satisfy a sweet tooth with honey or fruit.  Unfortunately for people with diabetes, those items can spike blood sugars too high.  Honey, for instance, has 17 grams of carbohydrate in one tablespoon (15 ml), which is more carb than in a tablespoon of white granulated table sugar.

Most diabetics eating paleo-style will need some limit on consumption of honey and fruit.  Or they could take more diabetes drugs to control blood glucose elevations.  Again, unfortunately, we don’t know the long-term health effects of most of our diabetes drugs.

How about getting a sweet fix with artificial sweeteners?  Paleo purists would say “fuggedaboudit.”  In theory, that’s fine.  But many paleo followers with diabetes won’t forget about it.  They’ll use artificial sweeteners, aka sugar substitutes.

If you’re gonna use ’em, think about stevia.  It’s derived from a natural source, the leaves of a plant in South America.  Admittedly, our forebears in eastern Africa wouldn’t have had access to it 50,000 years ago.  After the plant has been processed, it’s certainly a highly refined product going against the grain of the paleo movement.  Furthermore, one of the stevia market leaders in U.S. (Truvia) is mixed with erythritol.  To help you feel better about the erythritol (a sugar alcohol), note that it is found naturally in some fruits.  Another stevia commercial product in the U.S. is Pure Via.

Dietitian Brenna at her Eating Simple blog reviewed sugar impostors in January, 2012.  She favored stevia over the others, at least for non-diabetics who were tempted.  Brenna also linked to a Mayo Clinic review of artificial sweeteners.

Note that sugar alcohols like erythritol have the potential to raise blood sugar levels.  They shouldn’t raise it as much as table sugar, however.  With regard to sugar alcohols, Dr. Richard K. Bernstein urges caution, if not total avoidance.  Use your meter to see how they effect you.

If you’re in the habit of using one or two teaspoons of honey to sweeten tea or coffee, you’re blood sugar levels should be more stable and manageable if you use stevia instead.  Dr. Bernstein gives the green light to stevia powder or liquid, along with saccharin tablets or liquid, aspartame tablets, and sucralose tablets, acesulfame-K, and neotame tablets.  Stevia is the only one close to “natural.”

Steve Parker, M.D.

Do We Need Supplements Because Our Soils Are Depleted?

In my recent review of The Blood Sugar Solution, I noted the numerous supplements recommended by Dr. Mark Hyman: between 11 and 16 supplements.  And one of those supplements is a multivitamin/multimineral supplement that has 20 or so different components.

One reason we need the supplements, according to Dr. Hyman, is because the soils in which we grow food over the years has been depleted of minerals and other basic plant building blocks.

I know one doctor who told his patients the same thing while selling them over-priced supplements straight from his office.

So is there any truth to the “soil depletion” argument for supplements?

Not much, if any, according to Monica Reinagel.  She reviewed the topic in 2010 at her Nutrition Diva blog: http://nutritiondiva.quickanddirtytips.com/are-fruits-and-vegetables-getting-less-nutritious.aspx.  I trust Monica.  In the same article, you’ll find links to her opinion on whether organic vegetables are healthier and worth the cost.

I’ve not done a comprehensive review of the soil depletion issue myself.   It’s quite a difficult area to research; try it and you’ll see.  The Soil Science Society of America, founded in 1936, sounds like a great place to find the answer.  No such luck.

The U.S. is a huge country with lots of different soil types and usage histories.   Soils in one field may be depleted in certain components whereas the field across the road may be quite rich.  Soils are not static.  Farmers are always making amendments to the soil, either with fertilizers or other additives, or by rotating crops.

Wouldn’t you think farmers, whether small family units or huge corporate enterprises, would do what’s necessary to keep their soils productive?

Another way to look at soil depletion would be to look at the nutrient content of the plants and animals that depend on soil for life.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture did that in its 2004 publication, “Nutrient Content of the U.S. Food Suppy, 1909-2000.”  This paper includes 10 vitamins and nine minerals.  For the boring details, see   http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/publications/foodsupply/foodsupply1909-2000.pdf.   Some excerpts:

Levels for most vitamins and minerals were higher in 2000 than in 1909.

Levels for vitamin B12 and potassium were lower in 2000 than in 1909, but over the series, met or exceeded current recommendations for a healthy diet….

The authors attibute lower potassium availability to lower consumption of plant foods, especially fresh potatoes.  I’m increasingly interested in the possibilty that low potassium consumption may contribute to heart disease and premature death.  But that’s a topic for another day.

I’m skeptical about claims of widespread soil depletion in the U.S. as a cause of food supply degradation.  Supplement sellers are sure to disagree.  To be sure you’re getting the nutrients you need, eat a wide variety of foods.

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: The American Council on Science and Health has a brief article on whether everybody needs a multivitamin/multimineral supplement.

New research is questioning the benefits of taking supplemental vitamins and minerals, suggesting that, for the general population, such supplements may actually pose more risks than benefits.

Click for the full article: http://www.acsh.org/factsfears/newsid.3067/news_detail.asp

PPS:  Oregon State University’s Linus Pauling Institute published a long article on the multivitamin/multimineral supplement issue.  It seems fairly balanced to me.  The Institute notes the 2006 National Institutes of Health assessment that we have insufficient evidence to recommend either for  or against such supplementation (Annals of Internal Medicine, 145(5), 2006: 364-371).  Nevertheless, the Linus Pauling Institute recommends supplementation as “insurance.”  You know, just in case.

Right Diet Preserves Brain Function and Size

mp9004223691.jpgThe journal Neurology reports that the proper diet seems to help prevent age-related brain shrinkage and cognitive decline.

From the press release:

People with diets high in several vitamins or in omega 3 fatty acids are less likely to have the brain shrinkage associated with Alzheimer’s disease than people whose diets are not high in those nutrients, according to a new study published in the December 28, 2011, online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Those with diets high in omega 3 fatty acids and in vitamins C, D, E and the B vitamins also had higher scores on mental thinking tests than people with diets low in those nutrients. These omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin D are primarily found in fish. The B vitamins and antioxidants C and E are primarily found in fruits and vegetables.

So the dietary pattern linked to preservation of brain size and function in this study is: high omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins B, C, D, and E. I don’t know if study participants were getting these nutrients from supplements or from food or a combination. (I haven’t read the full article.)

To find foods high in the aforementioned nutrients, you can use NutritionData’s Nutrient Search Tool.

Note that the time-honored Mediterranean diet is also associated with lower rates of dementia and slower rate of age-related mental decline.

I previously reported that a supplement cocktail of three B vitamins slowed the rate of brain shrinkage.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Reference: Bowman, G.L., et al. Nutrient biomarker patterns, cognitive function, and MRI measures of brain aging. Neurology. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0b013e3182436598

h/t to Randall Parker at FuturePundit