How antioxidants can accelerate cancers, and why they don’t protect against them — ScienceDaily

For decades, health-conscious people around the globe have taken antioxidant supplements and eaten foods rich in antioxidants, figuring this was one of the paths to good health and a long life.

Yet clinical trials of antioxidant supplements have repeatedly dashed the hopes of consumers who take them hoping to reduce their cancer risk. Virtually all such trials have failed to show any protective effect against cancer. In fact, in several trials antioxidant supplementation has been linked with increased rates of certain cancers. In one trial, smokers taking extra beta carotene had higher, not lower, rates of lung cancer.

In a brief paper appearing in The New England Journal of Medicine, David Tuveson, M.D. Ph.D., Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Professor and Director of Research for the Lustgarten Foundation, and Navdeep S. Chandel, Ph.D., of the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University, propose why antioxidant supplements might not be working to reduce cancer development, and why they may actually do more harm than good.

Their insights are based on recent advances in the understanding of the system in our cells that establishes a natural balance between oxidizing and anti-oxidizing compounds. These compounds are involved in so-called redox (reduction and oxidation) reactions essential to cellular chemistry.via How antioxidants can accelerate cancers, and why they don’t protect against them — ScienceDaily.


John Oliver Doctor Oz – Weight Loss Products Claims: Refinery29

Last week, everybody’s favorite TV snake-oil salesman, Dr. Oz, was ripped a new one by a Congressional committee over claims he’s made on his TV show about “miracle in a bottle” weight-loss products. Oz’s very public scolding continued in the days afterward, with many a media outlet taking shots at the cardiothoracic surgeon for his coverage of “magic” solutions fot his viewers’ weight struggles. 

But, none even came close to the epic takedown executed flawlessly by John Oliver on last night’s episode of Last Week Tonight. In the clip, which is a full 16 minutes and 25 seconds and 100% worth watching all the way through, Oliver nails Oz for his irresponsible, completely unsubstantiated claims — in typical, hilarious, Oliver fashion. 

More than simply destroying Oz, though, Oliver’s rant draws attention to the real issue at hand, of which he says Oz is “just a symptom.” Oliver outlines the many problems with the FDA’s (lack of) regulation of dietary supplements — and the endless efforts by lobbying groups to keep it that way. Of course, as Oliver points out, this results in a number of demonstrably dangerous supplements remaining on store shelves, causing serious side effects, and even killing consumers. 

Not only can supplement manufacturers make unproven claims about the effectiveness of their products, they don’t even have to prove a supplement’s safety before it goes to market. Add that to recent reports that up to one in three supplements in America don’t contain even trace amounts of what they claim to provide, and it gets pretty tough to side with Oz on this one.

Watch the clip above to see the good doctor get the full treatment. You might want to grab some popcorn. 

via John Oliver Doctor Oz – Weight Loss Products Claims.

Popular probiotics have few cons, experts say – USA Today

Every year, half of all Americans take some kind of pill as insurance against their diets.

But recently, researchers have noticed a surprising trend: Use of some of the most popular supplements is waning, possibly because of recent reports questioning their benefits and raising awareness about risks. In a study by the independent research group, calcium supplementation declined among women, from 58% in 2012 to 46% in 2013 . Vitamin C purchases were off by 4.2%. Even sales of fish oil — once the hottest supplement on the market — dropped, according to the report.

The one category where supplementation is actually growing? Probiotics, or live bacteria that work by “recolonizing the small intestine and crowding out disease-causing bacteria, thereby restoring balance to the intestinal flora,” according to From 2012 to 2013, use of probiotics rose from 31% to 37% among regular supplement users.

Christopher Mohr, a nutritionist who founded, a nutrition counseling company in Louisville, can attest to the growing demand. “There has certainly been an increased interest among clients,” he says. “A good number of scientific studies support the inclusion of probiotics in our diet, and these stories get picked up by the media, leading consumers to learn more about them.”

Indeed, some medical research suggests numerous and broad applications for probiotics, such as easing irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and stomach distress associated with taking antibiotics. On the other hand, the National Institutes of Health takes a more conservative stance, concluding that “although some probiotic formulations have shown promise in research, strong scientific evidence to support specific uses of probiotics for most conditions is lacking.”

Canadian researchers have linked probiotic supplementation to lower levels of anxiety. According to study authors, the probiotic “L. rhamnosus (JB-1) reduced stress-induced corticosterone and anxiety- and depression-related behavior” in lab experiments. “Together, these findings highlight the important role of bacteria … and suggest that certain organisms may prove to be useful therapeutic adjuncts in stress-related disorders such as anxiety and depression,” they added.

Weight loss is another possible application. A study in December’s British Journal of Nutrition found that women supplementing their diet with probiotics were significantly more likely to lose weight (nearly 11 pounds on average) compared with those taking a placebo (just 5.7 pounds) over a 12-week period.

While probiotic use is generally considered safe, not all supplements are created equal.

“In our testing, some products did not contain the amount of organisms that they claimed,” says Tod Cooperman, president of In general, capsules must contain more than 1 billion CFUs (colony-forming units) to be effective.

The measurements are taken at the manufacturing site, but because of improper shipping or storage in heat or humidity, the number of CFUs may be half of what the label claims by the time the supplement reaches consumers. In the tests, Nature Made Digestive Health Probiotics, Culturelle and Align Probiotic Supplement all scored high marks.



rvia Popular probiotics have few cons, experts say.

Spike in Harm to Liver Is Tied to Dietary Aids

Michael Stravato for The New York Times

Christopher Herrera and his mother, Lordes Gonzalez, at home in Katy, Tex. A green tea extract nearly cost Christopher his liver.


When Christopher Herrera, 17, walked into the emergency room at Texas Children’s Hospital one morning last year, his chest, face and eyes were bright yellow — “almost highlighter yellow,” recalled Dr. Shreena S. Patel, the pediatric resident who treated him.

Christopher, a high school student from Katy, Tex., suffered severe liver damage after using a concentrated green tea extract he bought at a nutrition store as a “fat burning” supplement. The damage was so extensive that he was put on the waiting list for a liver transplant.

“It was terrifying,” he said in an interview. “They kept telling me they had the best surgeons, and they were trying to comfort me. But they were saying that I needed a new liver and that my body could reject it.”

New data suggests that his is not an isolated case. Dietary supplements account for nearly 20 percent of drug-related liver injuries that turn up in hospitals, up from 7 percent a decade ago, according to an analysis by a national network of liver specialists. The research included only the most severe cases of liver damage referred to a representative group of hospitals around the country, and the investigators said they were undercounting the actual number of cases.

While many patients recover once they stop taking the supplements and receive treatment, a few require liver transplants or die because of liver failure. Naïve teenagers are not the only consumers at risk, the researchers said. Many are middle-aged women who turn to dietary supplements that promise to burn fat or speed up weight loss.

“It’s really the Wild West,” said Dr. Herbert L. Bonkovsky, the director of the liver, digestive and metabolic disorders laboratory at Carolinas HealthCare System in Charlotte, N.C. “When people buy these dietary supplements, it’s anybody’s guess as to what they’re getting.”

Though doctors were able to save his liver, Christopher can no longer play sports, spend much time outdoors or exert himself, lest he strain the organ. He must make monthly visits to a doctor to assess his liver function.

Americans spend an estimated $32 billion on dietary supplements every year, attracted by unproven claims that various pills and powders will help them lose weight, build muscle and fight off everything from colds to chronic illnesses. About half of Americans use dietary supplements, and most of them take more than one product at a time.

Dr. Victor Navarro, the chairman of the hepatology division at Einstein Healthcare Network in Philadelphia, said that while liver injuries linked to supplements were alarming, he believed that a majority of supplements were generally safe. Most of the liver injuries tracked by a network of medical officials are caused by prescription drugs used to treat things like cancerdiabetes and heart disease, he said.

But the supplement business is largely unregulated. In recent years, critics of the industry have called for measures that would force companies to prove that their products are safe, genuine and made in accordance with strict manufacturing standards before they reach the market.

But a federal law enacted in 1994, the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, prevents the Food and Drug Administration from approving or evaluating most supplements before they are sold. Usually the agency must wait until consumers are harmed before officials can remove products from stores. Because the supplement industry operates on the honor system, studies show, the market has been flooded with products that are adulterated, mislabeled or packaged in dosages that have not been studied for safety.

The new research found that many of the products implicated in liver injuries were bodybuilding supplements spiked with unlisted steroids, and herbal pills and powders promising to increase energy and help consumers lose weight.

“There unfortunately are criminals that feel it’s a business opportunity to spike some products and sell them as dietary supplements,” said Duffy MacKay, a spokesman for the Council for Responsible Nutrition, a supplement industry trade group. “It’s the fringe of the industry, but as you can see, it is affecting some consumers.” More popular supplements like vitamins, minerals, probiotics and fish oil had not been linked to “patterns of adverse effects,” he said.

The F.D.A. estimates that 70 percent of dietary supplement companies are not following basic quality control standards that would help prevent adulteration of their products. Of about 55,000 supplements that are sold in the United States, only 170 — about 0.3 percent — have been studied closely enough to determine their common side effects, said Dr. Paul A. Offit, the chief of infectious diseases at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and an expert on dietary supplements.

“When a product is regulated, you know the benefits and the risks and you can make an informed decision about whether or not to take it,” he said. “With supplements, you don’t have efficacy data and you don’t have safety data, so it’s just a black box.”

Since 2008, the F.D.A. has been taking action against companies whose supplements are found to contain prescription drugs and controlled substances, said Daniel Fabricant, the director of the division of dietary supplement programs in the agency’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. For example, the agency recently took steps to remove one “fat burning” product from shelves, OxyElite Pro, that was linked to one death and dozens of cases of hepatitis and liver injury in Hawaii and other states.

The new research, presented last month at a conference in Washington, was produced by the Drug-Induced Liver Injury Network, which was established by the National Institutes of Health to track patients who suffer liver damage from certain drugs and alternative medicines. It includes doctors at eight major hospitals throughout the country.

The investigators looked at 845 patients with severe, drug-induced liver damage who were treated at hospitals in the network from 2004 to 2012. It focused only on cases where the investigators ruled out other causes and blamed a drug or a supplement with a high degree of certainty.

When the network began tracking liver injuries in 2004, supplements accounted for 7 percent of the 115 severe cases. But the percentage has steadily risen, reaching 20 percent of the 313 cases recorded from 2010 to 2012.

Those patients included dozens of young men who were sickened by bodybuilding supplements. The patients all fit a similar profile, said Dr. Navarro, an investigator with the network.

“They become very jaundiced for long periods of time,” he said. “They itch really badly, to the point where they can’t sleep. They lose weight. They lose work. I had one patient who was jaundiced for six months.”

Tests showed that a third of the implicated products contained steroids not listed on their labels.

A second trend emerged when Dr. Navarro and his colleagues studied 85 patients with liver injuries linked to herbal pills and powders. Two-thirds were middle-aged women, on average 48 years old, who often used the supplements to lose weight or increase energy. Nearly a dozen of those patients required liver transplants, and three died.

Take Your Vitamins, Or Don’t: Study Shows It May Not Matter

Take Your Vitamins, Or Don\’t: Study Shows It May Not Matter

By Victoria Bekiempis / November 12 2013 3:45 PM

A new report says nutritional supplements probably don’t reduce the risk of cancer or cardiovascular disease.   Mario Tama/Getty

Talk about a bitter pill: Vitamins might not do anything to prevent cancer or cardiovascular disease. According to a new report from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, there’s not enough evidence to suggest that single or paired-nutrient supplements curtail the development of those maladies.

“The [task force] found inadequate evidence on the benefits of supplementation with individual vitamins, minerals, or functional pairs in healthy populations without nutritional deficiencies to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease or cancer,” the draft recommendation states. (The evidence supporting this report was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.)

Dr. Michael LeFevre, panel co-chair and medicine professor at University of Missouri, tells Newsweek: “There are a lot of people out there who are taking either individual supplements or multivitamins in hopes that they will prevent cancer and heart disease.… We cannot conclude that you can take a pill and do the same thing as eating well accomplishes.”

He adds that vitamin E doesn’t to prevent either condition and that the beta carotene “may actually be harmful.” The report notes that “supplementation with beta carotene increases the risk of lung cancer in persons who are at increased risk of lung cancer.” The comprehensive study updates the task force’s 2003 recommendations, which are meant to be used as treatment guidelines for primary care physicians.

This might come as bad news to the 50 percent of American adults who take vitamins and minerals and reportedly spend $28.1 billion annually on supplements. Though most of the medical establishment has long been skeptical of the alleged special powers of supplements, many Americans believe some vitamins and minerals have curative or preventive properties. And though supplement companies are careful to never say directly say their products will cure or prevent diseases, product marketing often hints at these properties, such as GNC’s “Preventive Nutrition” line.

Dr. Paul Offit, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and the Director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, has written extensive critiques of supplements and alternative medicine. He tells Newsweek that “most people get what they need in the foods that they eat.”

Offit hopes this report will encourage consumers to think twice before downing doses of these items – the same way they would seek a second opinion before consenting to surgery. “You should really question whether you should be taking a supplement,” he said. “Why aren’t we as suspicious of this industry as we are of conventional medicine? Just bring the same level of skepticism to one as the other.”

The Council for Responsible Nutrition, a supplement industry trade group, says in a statement that “the paucity of clinical trial evidence should not be misinterpreted as a lack of benefit for the multivitamin.”

The Council calls for a holistic approach, saying “nutrients work in synergy with other nutrients… We should consider vitamins a piece of the health puzzle, not magic bullets that are the be-all and end-all for preventing serious diseases like cancer and cardiovascular disease. If there are benefits for vitamins for cancer and cardiovascular disease, those benefits are icing on the cake.”

LeFevre suggests that anyone interested in proven preventive nutrition skip both the icing and the cake. “My mother was probably right when she told me to eat my vegetables,” he says.

via Take Your Vitamins, Or Don’t: Study Shows It May Not Matter.

Herbal Supplements Are Often Not What They Seem –

Herbal Supplements Are Often Not What They Seem -


Americans spend an estimated $5 billion a year on unproven herbal supplements that promise everything from fighting off colds to curbing hot flashes and boosting memory. But now there is a new reason for supplement buyers to beware: DNA tests show that many pills labeled as healing herbs are little more than powdered rice and weeds.

Using a test called DNA barcoding, a kind of genetic fingerprinting that has also been used to help uncover labeling fraud in the commercial seafood industry, Canadian researchers tested 44 bottles of popular supplements sold by 12 companies. They found that many were not what they claimed to be, and that pills labeled as popular herbs were often diluted — or replaced entirely — by cheap fillers like soybean, wheat and rice.

Consumer advocates and scientists say the research provides more evidence that the herbal supplement industry is riddled with questionable practices. Industry representatives argue that any problems are not widespread.

For the study, the researchers selected popular medicinal herbs, and then randomly bought different brands of those products from stores and outlets in Canada and the United States. To avoid singling out any company, they did not disclose any product names.

Among their findings were bottles of echinacea supplements, used by millions of Americans to prevent and treat colds, that contained ground up bitter weed, Parthenium hysterophorus, an invasive plant found in India and Australia that has been linked to rashes, nausea and flatulence.

Two bottles labeled as St. John’s wort, which studies have shown may treat mild depression, contained none of the medicinal herb. Instead, the pills in one bottle were made of nothing but rice, and another bottle contained only Alexandrian senna, an Egyptian yellow shrub that is a powerful laxative. Gingko biloba supplements, promoted as memory enhancers, were mixed with fillers and black walnut, a potentially deadly hazard for people with nut allergies.

Of 44 herbal supplements tested, one-third showed outright substitution, meaning there was no trace of the plant advertised on the bottle — only another plant in its place.

Many were adulterated with ingredients not listed on the label, like rice, soybean and wheat, which are used as fillers.

In some cases, these fillers were the only plant detected in the bottle — a health concern for people with allergies or those seeking gluten-free products, said the study’s lead author, Steven G. Newmaster, a biology professor and botanical director of the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario at the University of Guelph.

The findings, published in the journal BMC Medicine, follow a number of smaller studies conducted in recent years that have suggested a sizable percentage of herbal products are not what they purport to be. But because the latest findings are backed by DNA testing, they offer perhaps the most credible evidence to date of adulteration, contamination and mislabeling in the medicinal supplement industry, a rapidly growing area of alternative medicine that includes an estimated 29,000 herbal products and substances sold throughout North America.

“This suggests that the problems are widespread and that quality control for many companies, whether through ignorance, incompetence or dishonesty, is unacceptable,” said David Schardt, a senior nutritionist at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, an advocacy group. “Given these results, it’s hard to recommend any herbal supplements to consumers.”

Representatives of the supplement industry said that while mislabeling of supplements was a legitimate concern, they did not believe it reached the extent suggested by the new research.

Stefan Gafner, the chief science officer at the American Botanical Council, a nonprofit group that promotes the use of herbal supplements, said the study was flawed, in part because the bar-coding technology it used could not always identify herbs that have been purified and highly processed.

“Over all, I would agree that quality control is an issue in the herbal industry,” Dr. Gafner said. “But I think that what’s represented here is overblown. I don’t think it’s as bad as it looks according to this study.”

The Food and Drug Administration has used bar-coding technology to warn and in some cases prosecute sellers of seafood found to be “misbranded.” The DNA technique has also been used in studies of herbal teas, which showed that a significant percentage contain herbs and ingredients that are not listed on their labels.

But policing the supplement industry is a special challenge. The F.D.A. requires that companies test the products they sell to make sure that they are safe. But the system essentially operates on the honor code. Unlike prescription drugs, supplements are generally considered safe until proved otherwise.

Under a 1994 law, they can be sold and marketed with little regulatory oversight, and they are pulled from shelves generally only after complaints of serious injury. The F.D.A. audits a small number of companies, but even industry representatives say more oversight is needed.

via Herbal Supplements Are Often Not What They Seem –

Relaxation Drinks: The Opposite of Energy Drinks – WSJ

Can relaxation, a good night’s sleep or happiness come from a lightly carbonated, berry-flavored beverage?

Amid booming sales of energy drinks spiked with caffeine and other stimulating ingredients, some people are heading to the soda aisle for drinks that promise the opposite effect. With names like Neuro Bliss, Marley’s Mellow Mood (as in Bob), and Just Chill, the products aren’t marketed as medicine, but as a way to relax without turning to more traditional, if sometimes imperfect, measures like taking prescription drugs or having a few beers.

Consumers are warming up to drinks that could fill the chasm between taking medication for anxiety or sleep problems and doing nothing, says Paul Nadel, president of Neuro Drinks, a Santa Monica, Calif.-based company that sells a line of six drinks including Neuro Bliss, Neuro Sleep and Neuro Sonic, an energy drink. He says the “overmedicated culture we live in” has primed consumers for the concept of a relaxation drink.

[image]Serge Bloch (3)Balance Relax, Neuro Bliss and Marley’s Mellow Mood are often sold in the soda aisle.

Small studies show that some of the ingredients in relaxation drinks, like melatonin, valerian root and L-theanine, appear to help fight sleeplessness or to create a sensation of relaxation in isolated situations.

Still, clinicians recommend turning to drugs or supplements as a last resort for sleep and anxiety problems after trying daily exercise, a consistent wake-up time, turning off electronics and darkening rooms in the evening, therapy or other measures.

The ingredients appear reasonably safe for most adults, but users should check with a doctor or research how they might mix with other medications or pre-existing illnesses, says Catherine Ulbricht, co-founder of Natural Standard Research Collaboration, a Somerville, Mass., group that evaluates natural therapies.

[image]Serge BlochJust Chill has L-theanine, an amino acid found in tea, and comes in beach-themed flavors: Tropical, Jamaican Citrus and Rio Berry

She notes that this class of beverages with multiple active ingredients hasn’t been well-studied: “I don’t mean to sound scary, but it’s not water.”

Often the drinks are marketed as dietary supplements, a classification under Food and Drug Administration standards that means at least one ingredient isn’t considered conventional food. The FDA doesn’t review the efficacy, safety or quantity of active ingredients in dietary supplements.

The relaxation drinks come as traditional soda sales continue on an almost decadelong decline and more companies are introducing drinks tailored to niche audiences.

More consumers say they want a drink that feels healthier than soda—hence the raft of new, lower-calorie beverages. Some have only natural ingredients, while other so-called “functional” products claim some benefit like energy, sleep or cold-fighting properties.

Big beverage companies are pitching coconut water, energy drinks and fruit smoothies, but so far haven’t dipped their toe into the relaxation business.

It’s not clear the relaxation drink concept will stick. In 2012 relaxation drinks (which includes sleep drinks) accounted for about $32 million in U.S. wholesale sales, a slight increase from previous years, but a tiny amount compared with the $6 billion generated by U.S. energy drinks the same year, says Gary Hemphill, managing director of research for Beverage Marketing Corp. “Some people say, ‘If I want to relax I’m going to have a martini,” Mr. Hemphill says.

Already a fan of sipping morning coffee to wake up and downing a happy-hour drink to unwind, Patrick O’Brien, a 31-year-old aerospace project manager in Los Angeles, recently added two cans of Just Chill to his Monday afternoon routine.

Sold in three beach-themed fruit flavors in a slim can, the drink contains L-theanine, an amino acid found in green tea that the label says “promotes a Chill Mentality.”

“It’s kind of a Xanax in a can,” he says. After a weekend of late nights, the drink helps him feel less anxious confronting a Monday-sized pile of work, he says.

A first round of relaxation drinks came onto the market several years ago. They often were linked explicitly to recreational drug use with names like Purple Stuff and Drank, both slang for the practice of mixing prescription-strength codeine with soda or juice. The drinks now gaining popularity are marketed as mainstream products for busy moms, stressed professionals or those with sleep problems.

Typical consumers “have too much caffeine, then they grab Just Chill,” to calm down in the afternoon or evening, says Max Baumann, founder and chief executive of the Venice, Calif.-based Chill Group Inc. “It’s not about knocking you out,” says Mr. Baumann. The L-theanine in the drink is meant to focus and relax people before “anything where there might be a fight-or-flight response,” like a stressful meeting, he says. The company has sponsored yoga and surfing events to cultivate its image, he says.

Some drinks are pitching “more of a lifestyle thing,” says Lee Brody, global marketing director for Marley Beverage Co., which is owned by Viva Beverages, a Southfield, Mich., company. Members of the Marley family hold an ownership stake.

Three years ago Viva introduced Marley’s Mellow Mood drinks, a line of relaxation juices and decaffeinated teas with Bob Marley’s image on every bottle. Originally Marley family members came to Viva with the idea of a Bob Marley-themed energy drink, says Mr. Brody. But the “more authentic proposition for a beverage named after Bob Marley was not energy, but relaxation,” he says.

The company markets the drinks at music festivals like the recent Gathering of the Vibes, in Bridgeport, Conn., a music, arts and camping festival. “I get asked on a weekly basis, ‘Does this drink have ganja in it?’ ” says Mr. Brody. (It doesn’t.) The drink’s appeal is Bob Marley’s brand, an association with reggae music and “hey, take time for you,” in a world of busy schedules, he says. It contains camomile flower and valerian root extracts.

Drinking a sleep beverage “has to be better than Ambien,” reasons Julie Duffy, an elementary school reading specialist from Clark, N.J., who drinks Neuro Sleep most nights to fall asleep by 10 p.m., instead of past midnight.

At about $2.40 a bottle, the bright orange bottles filled with melatonin and other ingredients are more expensive than the melatonin powders she tried, but it “tastes great,” like “those orange drinks at McDonald’s,” she says.

Apparently, Some People Can’t Be Bothered With Food : The Salt : NPR


April 07, 201312:40 PM

There are people who don’t like food? Yes. But liquid meal replacements may not be their best bet.We’re accustomed to offbeat food ideas here at The Salt. But even we had to pause over recent headlines about a guy who bragged about finding a way around eating.

Rob Rhinehart’s blog details his two-month experiment consuming mostly Soylent, a concoction he invented to provide all the nutrition and none of the hassle of food. It first attracted the attention of Vice, and then The Washington Post, which said that his plan just might work. Rhinehart, a 24-year-old electrical engineer in San Francisco, soon found himself inundated with queries from people interested in testing Soylent. He’d apparently hit on something that resonated with others.

But wait a minute, we wondered: What exactly is so bothersome about eating food?

“I resented the time, money and effort [that] the purchase, preparation, consumption, and clean-up of food was consuming,” Rhinehart writes on the blog. His liquid solution has left him feeling sated, leaner and more focused, he writes. And in an email to The Salt, he added: “Personally, I’ve found separating the social and cultural enjoyment of food from food as ‘fuel’ has vastly improved my quality of life.”

Strange as it may seem to those of us who adore food, there is a veritable subculture of otherwise healthy people who find eating to be a nuisance. When I did an informal poll of my colleagues and friends, a few said they could relate to Rhinehart and his interest in an alternative to food. (For the record, they were all young men.)

Of course, there are also people who have difficulty with food for much more serious reasons — food allergies or other illnesses (think the late Roger Ebert), as well as people with eating disorders or dreams of weight loss.

Amanda Holliday, an assistant professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, says she has come across a lot of people who’ve given up on food. “Some feel overwhelmed by all the choices,” she tells The Salt. “Others feel defeated by having to choose something healthy.” Holliday also has patients with dementia, for whom chewing and swallowing is problematic.

But is it really possible to come up with a meal replacement product that’s equivalent to a diverse diet of real food?

Nestle makes a range of products under the Boost brand marketed as liquid nutritional supplements or meal replacements. But nutritionists say they can’t compete with all the benefits of eating real food.

Big food companies have tried with liquid meal-replacement products like Ensure, made by Abbott, or Boost, made by Nestle. Holliday and other nutritionists recommend these products to sick people who really can’t eat — but they have reservations about them for the rest of us.

Even though such meal replacements may be packed with micronutrients, they’re missing the other beneficial components of real food that haven’t yet been isolated, Holliday says. And these products may include processed ingredients like high fructose corn syrup.

“In the hospital nutrition world, we’re still looking for products based on real food,” she says. “We could make them ourselves, but there’s labor involved.”

Rhinehart hasn’t released his Soylent recipe, but he tweeted that it has “ingredients produced by the food processing industry by the megaton.”

But the “food averse” should think twice before turning to Rhinehart, or any other rogue inventor, for a silver bullet meal replacement, warns Sharon Akabas with the Institute of Human Nutrition at Columbia University.

Akabas takes issue with Rhinehart’s scorn for nutrition science. She calls it “hubris” for Rhinehart to assume that he can calculate exactly what his body needs, based on loose proportions of micronutrient recommendations gleaned from biochemistry textbooks.

In fact, says Akabas, nutrition science has learned a lot about what the body needs by studying the effects of certain foods and diets over decades.

“For someone to do something for two months and say they feel better is pretty meaningless,” she says.

She is, however, sympathetic to the anxiety that many people feel about food: “People are exasperated with the complexity of advice they’re getting and the mixed messages from the industry,” she says. “There are ways of simplifying food to the point that wouldn’t take much effort or cost much. But there is no equivalent of manna — a single food with everything we need.”

via Apparently, Some People Can’t Be Bothered With Food : The Salt : NPR.

Most People Can Skip Calcium Supplements, Prevention Panel Says : Shots – Health News : NPR

Most People Can Skip Calcium Supplements, Prevention Panel Says


Women have been told for years that if they don’t take calcium supplements religiously, they’re putting themselves at risk of crippling hip fractures in old age.

Now the word from a major government panel: Why bother?

There’s no evidence that taking calcium supplements reduces the risk of fractures for most people, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force said. The recommendations were published online Monday by the Annals of Internal Medicine.

That applies to postmenopausal women, the target audience for calcium supplements.

“We’re not saying don’t use it,” says Linda Baumann, a member of the task force and a professor emerita of nursing at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “But think about it, because we’re not sure it has the benefit you think it has.”

The task force said that taking up to 1,000 milligrams a day of calcium supplements and up to 400 international units of vitamin D daily did nothing to prevent fractures in healthy people, while slightly increasing the risk of kidney stones.

That’s just a bit less than the 1,200 milligrams of calcium a day recommended for postmenopausal women by a 2011 Institute of Medicine report. More might be better, the USPSTF panel concluded, but there’s no evidence that’s true. The panel gives independent recommendations to the federal government on the risks and benefits of treatments.

Reports like this always come with caveats, so here goes: The recommendations don’t apply to people who already have osteoporosis or vitamin D deficiency. And the advice doesn’t apply to people over 65 who are at risk of falls.

The task force members would have loved to review data on whether taking calcium and vitamin D supplements earlier in life would be useful, Baumann tells Shots. Teenagers’ calcium intake is pathetically low, even though they’re still growing.

“The other thing that’s really unclear is the appropriate dose and dosing regimen,” Baumann says. The studies the panel relied on were all over the map on how much people took — and when. And because most studies have looked at calcium and bone health in white women, there’s no good data on men or minority groups.

Vitamin D supplements have become trendy of late, promoted as preventing cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Some doctors recommending up to 50,000 IU in a week.The USPSTF is looking at whether D influences cancer, so stay tuned for that.

An accompanying editorial concludes, “While we wait for the results of further research, the USPSTF’s cautious, evidence-based advice should encourage clinicians to think carefully before advising calcium and vitamin D supplementation for healthy individuals.”

Calcium supplements aren’t as trendy, but some women are “taking three, four, five calcium pills a day,” says Cliff Rosen, an author of the 2011 IOM report, and an osteoporosis researcher at the Maine Medical Center Research Institute. Taking that much can up the risk of kidney stones by 17 percent, he says. And there’s also evidence that calcium supplements may contribute to heart disease.

The calcium in food doesn’t seem to cause those problems, Rosen says. So the best advice for everyone, from teens to their grandmas, is get calcium from food. “A glass of milk is 300 milligrams. Three glasses of milk a day, and you get there without a problem.”

And if that doesn’t grab you, there’s another option, Rosen says: “Of course, ice cream has calcium in it.”

via Most People Can Skip Calcium Supplements, Prevention Panel Says : Shots – Health News : NPR. » Too Much Calcium Could Cause Kidney, Heart Problems, Researchers Say

Federal health officials recommend people under 50 consume 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day, but some are overdoing it.

by Patti Neighmond

When it comes to a healthy diet — especially for women, and especially after menopause — nutritionists, doctors, everybody it seems, will tell you: calcium, calcium, calcium.

Federal health officials recommend women and men under age of 50 consume 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day. The recommendation goes up to 1,200 mg after the age of 70 for men and after menopause for women when a major drop in estrogen causes bone loss.

So, in a culture which often considers “more” to be “better,” one might ask, if 1,200 milligrams of calcium is good, is 2,000 mg of calcium better?

No, says Dr. Ethel C. Siris, director of the Tony Stabile Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Osteoporosis at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York. “You need enough; you don’t need extra,” she says.

“Extra calcium does you no good and there is a small risk that if you take too much you might get a kidney stone,” says Dr. Siris. That’s because the body can only handle 600 milligrams of calcium at once. Extra calcium can build up in the bloodstream and, when excreted through kidneys in urine, it can cause a kidney stone.

That’s been known for a while. But recently, a few studies raised concern that excess calcium may also calcify coronary arteries in susceptible individuals and even precipitate heart attack.

Robert Eckel, a cardiologist and endocrinologist at the University of Colorado, is past president of the American Heart Association. While these studies are far from conclusive and far more research needs to be done, he says they do raise the question about whether there’s potentially some danger in over-the-counter calcium supplements which go beyond our usual dietary intake of calcium.

“So, at this point in time, there’s a bit of a signal” that should raise caution, but remains highly controversial. “I don’t think anyone has stepped up to say calcium supplements should be abandoned,” says Eckel.

Particularly since calcium is so critical for bone health. The best plan of action, says Siris: Eat more calcium rich foods.

“If you’re somebody who has a glass of milk with breakfast, that’s 300 milligrams of calcium; a container of yogurt will give you another 200 to 300 milligrams; a couple of ounces of cheese will give you 200 to 300 milligrams,” she says. For most healthy adults under age 50, that’s about all you need for bone health.

And, if you don’t eat dairy, Siris says there are plenty of other foods that also contain calcium. These include vegetables like broccoli, bok choy, and turnip greens; oranges, figs, salmon and sardines. Cereals and soy milk often have added calcium, along with added Vitamin D, which is essential to help the body absorb calcium.

So, estimate your daily intake of calcium from food, says Siris, and then calculate whether you need to take an extra supplement. You may just need 300 or 600 milligrams of calcium extra and you may not even need that every day. [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]

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