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    Archive for the ‘vitamins’ Category

    You Ask, I Answer: A Vegetable-Free Day

    bowlofvegetablesWould it impact your health if you occasionally (i.e. once in 4 or 6 weeks) went for a day without eating any veggies at all, assuming you get your 4-5 servings of vegetables everyday otherwise?

    — Purnima Anand
    New  York, NY


    When it comes to nutrition’s effects on health, you need to keep in mind the concept of “general dietary patterns”.

    If you consume four to five servings of vegetables 330 days of the year (and, say, none on the other 30 days, which is quite a stretch), you still come out with an average of 3.6 to 4.5 servings per day for that year.

    By the way: the lower number assumes four servings per day for 330 days, while the higher figure was calculated using five daily servings for 330 days.

    Besides, I’m sure that on the days you don’t eat any vegetables you are eating other healthful foods (ie: seeds, nuts, fruits, whole grains, spices, etc.) that offer fiber, phytonutrients, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.


    You Ask, I Answer: Vitamin Supplements (Redux)

    Natural-Vitamin-E-SoftgelIs a vitamin in [soft] gel form more easily absorbed in the body than in tablet form?

    Also, does that list of 10 USP-approved companies you shared with us by definition invalidate all other companies such as Solgar, which also produces vitamins?  In fact, there are a whole lot of very big companies not on the list.  Is there a reason?

    Lastly, my doctor says all vitamins are regulated by the DEA; it that correct?

    — Barlow (Last name withheld)
    Westchester, NY

    Vitamins consumed in softgel form are absorbed more quickly than those in tablet form.

    That said — “so what?”.

    Supplements are not medication.  When you have the flu, you want to take something that will alleviate symptoms as soon as possible.  If you’re looking to boost your omega-3 intake, quick absorption is not a priority.

    Keep in mind that even vitamins in tablet form have undergone a significant amount of testing to ensure they dissolve as quickly as possible.

    As for the list of supplements tested and verified by third-party public heath organization U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP) I shared recently — a company’s absence does not mean their supplements are not high quality.

    USP testing is completely voluntary.  Some companies — especially well-known ones — are confident of their popularity, and may therefore not see any added benefit to being USP approved.  It is quite a shame that the average consumer is not aware of what USP testing is or what a USP logo on a supplement bottle means.

    Remember, too, that there is a fee to be USP-tested.

    Lastly, I think your doctor is confused.  The Drug Enforment Agency (DEA) has nothing to do with vitamin supplements.

    Perhaps he is thinking of DSHEA — the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994.  That is the infamous ruling that allows supplements to bypass testing by — and regulation from — the Food & Drug Administration, since they are not considered “conventional food products.”

    The only way in which supplements are regulated (and I use that term very loosely) is that, as of June 2010, manufacturers will be “required” to formulate products that abide by “good manufacturing practices”, are accurately labeled (good luck enforcing that!), and free of contaminants.


    You Ask, I Answer: Nutrient Deficiencies in the USA?

    b3f7589ceff2I’m confused.

    I’ve heard some nutritionists say that nutrient deficiencies among Americans are rare due to the sheer amount of food we eat.

    But, I have also heard reports that “most Americans don’t get enough potassium” or “30% of women in the U.S. don’t have an adequate intake of calcium”.

    So, which is it?

    — Corey Clark
    (Location Unknown)

    Wonderful — and very insightful — question.

    Both statements you’ve heard are accurate — and one does not cancel the other out!

    The answer to this puzzle?  Nutrient deficiencies and insufficient intakes are two very different concepts that exist on a continuum.

    A nutrient deficiency is tangible.  It has specific physical and/or biochemical symptoms which can be explicitly corrected by consuming adequate amounts of that nutrient (think Vitamin C and scurvy, or iron and iron-deficiency anemia).

    Although insufficient intakes of nutrients — which are much more common — often increase one’s risk of developing certain conditions and diseases, they do not clinically manifest themselves like deficiencies.

    Let’s go back to the vitamin C example.  Someone with an insufficient intake of vitamin C might have a more vulnerable immune system, but not have such a low intake that they develop scurvy.


    Essentially Nothing but Clever Advertising

    20093251549250.Fruit2O_022“Now some of the most powerful nutrients on earth can be found in your water,” Fruit2O Essential Water’s print advertisements proudly state.

    This particular bottled water’s added value is that it packs in a gram of fiber along with key nutrients — such as vitamin E, phosphorus, manganese, zinc, and potassium for the cranberry-raspberry flavor — that supposedly equal two servings of fruit.

    I will never understand the inclusion of vitamin E — a fat-soluble vitamin — in zero-calorie beverages.  Unless you’re drinking Fruit2O while munching on a food that contains some fat, the Vitamin E is not being absorbed.

    Products like these only propagate what I call “the vitamin and mineral trap.”

    Remember — foods contain much more than simply vitamins and minerals.

    In the case of fruits, there are thousands of phytonutrients — many still undiscovered — that provide health benefits, particularly as part of a food matrix (in conjunction with other nutrients, as opposed to isolated in pill form).

    Therefore, I do NOT equate a bottle of Fruit2O to two servings of whole fruit.

    I see no difference whatsoever between drinking a Fruit2O and downing a multivitamin while drinking water from your Brita filter.

    Is eating fruit that torturous and difficult for people?


    In The News: More Is Not Better

    Today’s Sydney Morning Herald briefly touches upon the problem of vitamin mega dosing among pregnant women, particularly since extremely high doses of vitamins A, D and E during pregnancy have been linked with birth defects.

    Historically, the field of nutrition looked at health problems from an “undernutrition” standpoint; that is, what can happen when we don’t eat enough or get a sufficient amount of nutrients?

    We are now starting to see an increasing amount of studies focus on the problem of overnutrition.

    Whether it’s too many calories, or too much of one specific vitamin, it is important for consumers to realize that the key to health, much like Goldilocks’ dilemma, lies in getting just the right amount.

    Although harmless, the last wave of overconsumption I witnessed — at least here in the United States — was the bottled water craze. It’s almost as if people forgot that their bodies had thirst mechanisms!

    Drinking three liters of water a day doesn’t accomplish much of anything other than more frequent trips to the bathroom.


    You Ask, I Answer: "50 Worst Foods" List

    What do you think about this list of 50 foods with almost zero nutritional value linked to on Serious Eats’ Twitter page?

    — Kristin (last name withheld)
    (Location withheld)

    I have many, many problems with it.

    Not only does it not present particularly new information, it is also poorly written and makes a significant number of inaccurate statements and sweeping generalizations.

    For example:

    Potato Chips are fried and packed with tons of preservatives to keep them fresh for months.

    Not quite. Many potato chips are made up of simply potatoes, oil, and salt (salt being the preservative!).

    Therefore, it is absolutely inaccurate to say they are packed with “tons” of preservatives.

    Additionally, while potato chips do not offer as much nutrition as a baked potato with its skin on, your typical serving does contain as much potassium as a medium banana.

    This list also claims that pasta has “zero nutritional value”.

    Not so! Non-whole grain pasta may not be very high in fiber, but it still contains protein as well as some B vitamins and iron (as a result of enrichment.)

    It is ridiculous to claim that a food with that sort of nutritional profile has “almost zero” nutritional value.

    Then there’s this odd inclusion:

    Fried seafood like shrimp, clams, and lobster contain high trans fat. They also contain mercury and possibly parasites.”

    Awkward phrasing aside, this is plain wrong.

    Trans fat is only an issue if those foods are fried in an oil high in trans fats. As far as mercury is concerned, it is the large predatory fish that are a concern, not bottom-of-the-sea dwellers.

    And as far as parasites are concerned — that may be an issue from a food safety perspective depending on how these foods are eaten (although who eats raw lobster??), but that has nothing to do with the nutritional quality of a food.

    How about this vague tidbit:

    Breakfast or cereal bars are low in fat but high in sugar. They offer very little in vitamins, minerals, and fiber.”

    This greatly varies on the brand. Many cereal bars offer 4 or 5 grams of fiber, little added sugar, and a handful of vitamins and minerals.

    Another example that left me scratching my head:

    Oreo Cookies contain about 60% of fat and extremely high in Tran’s [sic] fat. The filling packs on an additional 160 calories per cookie.

    Wrong. Wrong. Wrong!

    First of all, a single Oreo cookie contains 53 calories. The “Double Stuf” variety adds up to 70 calories per cookie. Hence, this notion that the filling alone contains 160 calories is absolutely off-base.

    It is also inaccurate to claim that Oreos are “extremely high in trans fats.”

    Although partially hydrogenated oil is included on the ingredient list, the food label lists 0 grams per serving. This means that, at most, Oreos contain 0.4 grams of trans fat per serving (for all we know, it could be 0.09 grams).

    I do not consider that to be “extremely high.”

    I could go on and on. Alas, I can’t fathom why a website like Serious Eats would find that list worthy of linking to.


    You Ask, I Answer: Pickling

    I know most pickles have a high sodium content, but I’m wondering if the vinegar and processing destroys the nutrients in the veggies.

    I know cucumbers don’t have a whole lot going for them, but pickled green beans are yummy.

    Do they have the same nutrients as unpickled green beans?

    — Jennifer Armstrong
    Via the blog

    This question doesn’t have a clear cut answer.

    Although storing vegetables in a jar of vinegar results in some nutrient losses, the amount actually lost is dependent on how long the vegetables sit in the pickling solution for.

    The first nutrients to go are the water-soluble vitamins (vitamin C and the B complex).

    However, unless these green beans are sitting in the solution for months, you are still getting a percentage of those vitamins.

    The fat soluble vitamins (in green beans’ case, K and A) remain untouched, as do the present minerals (phosphorus, potassium, manganese) and fiber.


    You Ask, I Answer: Wheatgrass

    I really liked your video on supplements. So many of them are just empty hype. I completely agree with you.

    What are your thoughts on wheatgrass? One of my cousins swears by it.

    He says it’s the easiest way to get a bunch of vitamins and minerals.

    — Name withheld
    New York, NY

    Wheatgrass juice, the end result of pulping the young shoots of sprouted wheatberries, sure sounds like a magic green potion.

    Depending on who you listen to, it clears acne, helps detoxify the colon, has “living enzymes” (ugh!), and even cures cancer and heart disease.

    Before I go on, allow me to say “shame on you!” to anyone who advertises a food, beverage, or supplement as a cure for any disease, much less cancer.

    It’s absolutely despicable to toy with people’s emotions and hopes like that.

    Anyhow, I’m sure someone, somewhere, also claims wheatgrass gives you a foot massage after a long day at the office.

    Wheatgrass advocates point out its high chlorophyll content as a major “plus” in the nutrition department.

    Since chlorophyll resembles hemoglobin, so the wheatgrass PR goes, this juice is a great way to “rebalance the blood.”

    I have no clue what rebalancing the blood means, or why we even need that, but chlorophyll has absolutely no effect on human health. If we were plants, a nice chlorophyll shake would certainly work wonders!

    Chlorophyll may share some molecular similarities with hemoglobin (a protein in red blood cells that transports oxygen from the lungs to other tissues), but it does NOT transform into it, nor does it have any effect — positve or negative — on our blood.

    And the ridiculous claim keep on coming, folks!

    “Wheatgrass has what is called the grass-juice factor, which has been shown to keep herbivorous animals alive indefinitely.”

    The grass-juice factor? What PR intern came up with that “catch phrase”?

    And as for keeping herbivorous animals alive indefinitely — can someone tell me where I can find one of these timeless creatures subsisting on grass juice?

    “Wheatgrass juice is great for constipation and keeping the bowels open. It is high in magnesium.”

    Apart from the fact that keeping the bowels open doesn’t sound very pleasant, wheatgrass is not high in magnesium. It contains absolutely negligible amounts.

    If you seek magnesium, reach for nuts, seeds, fish, and whole grains.

    The only nutrients wheatgrass offers are protein (at a practically nonexistent 0.5 grams for a 1 ounce serving), some vitamin C (7% of the Daily Value in a 1 ounce shot), and iron (10% in that same shot).

    I have absolutely no ideae where some of these wheatgrass companies get their statistics about their product offering vitamins A, B2 (riboflavin), C, D, and K, along with potassium and calcium.

    “Wheatgrass helps the body rid itself of toxins.”

    No. The liver and kidneys take care of that.

    Simply put, there is nothing about wheatgrass that can’t be found in other fruits and vegetables.

    While there is no harm in having it, perceiving it as some kind of miracle beverage is completely inaccurate.

    Spinach, broccoli, Swiss chard, and Granny Smith apples are much more nutritious green foods. In fact, the actual wheatberries are much more nutritious than the shoots.

    Remember, no one food or beverage meets all nutrition requirements or holds the powerful secret to longevity and agelessness.

    Anyone who tells you otherwise is a big old fraud.


    You "Ask", I Answer: Fruit

    I don’t think eliminating (or limiting significantly) fruit from one’s diet is such a terrible idea, IF fruits are replaced by vegetables.

    When comparing nutritional data for 100g of broccoli to 100g of apple, for example, broccoli clearly wins out.

    Broccoli has a bit less calories(18 cals less per 100g), less sugar (8g less) and significantly more of every vitamin and mineral than an apple.

    Analyzing 100g of sweet red pepper yields similar advantages over the apple.

    Sure, there are other fruits out there, but this brief comparison shows that by replacing fruits with veggies, one would not miss out on vitamins/minerals, would cut down on calories a bit, and would most likely feel fuller per gram consumed.

    As far as phytochemicals are concerned, veggies have plenty to offer. When I make a salad, I usually make sure it’s as colorful as possible – greens (lettuce, spinach), tomatoes (red), bell peppers (red/yellow/orange/green), garlic, etc., so as to include a variety of phytonutrients.

    I wouldn’t swear off fruit for the rest of my life, but I can see how a dieter would feel she’s getting more bang for her calories out of veggies vs. fruits, especially on a 1200 calorie diet.

    Just my two cents.

    — Anna
    Via the blog

    The problem with the comparison like the one you make above (between apples and broccoli) is that it has very little, if any, significance.

    Okay, so roughly three ounces of apples contain 18 less calories than roughly three ounces of broccoli. What is someone supposed to do with that information? Pack broccoli in their bag instead of an apple for an afternoon snack?

    The sugar you mention is insignificant, since the apple contains fiber which helps stabilize blood glucose and insulin levels.

    Besides, other comparisons would “show” that fruits are “better” than vegetables.

    An ounce of raspberries, for instance, contains 15 calories and 1.8 grams of fiber. An ounce of sweet potato, meanwhile, provides 26 calories and 0.9 grams of fiber.

    And if you compare 100 grams of bananas with 100 grams of raw cucumber, you’ll find that the bananas offer more vitamin C, fiber, vitamin B6, folate, manganese, potassium, and magnesium and only 70 more calories.

    That doesn’t make raspberries “better” than sweet potatoes, or bananas worth eating and cucumbers “useless.”

    All fruits and vegetables (yes, that includes potatoes!) are healthy. Shunning particular ones under the guise of “more nutrition” is very silly. There is definitely room for fruit in all diets.

    By the way, Britney Spears mentions shunning fruit, but in the same statement says she eats avocados. Back to Nutrition 101 for her!


    Say What?: You Say "Wholesome," I Say "Really?"

    The Slim-Fast Foods Company describes itself as being “committed to the development of wholesome and balanced nutritional products to aid in weight management and improved health.”

    An interesting description, to say the least, given the ingredient list for their 120-calorie chocolate peanut nougat snack bar:

    Maltitol Syrup, Milk Chocolate Flavored Coating (Sugar, Partially Hydrogenated Palm Kernel And Palm Oil, Cocoa (Processed With Alkali), Sugar, Roasted Peanuts (Peanuts, Peanut Oil), Sweetened Condensed Skim Milk (Skim Milk, Sugar), Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil (Palm Kernel And Soybean), Whey Protein Isolate, Gum Arabic, Malted Milk (Extracts Of Wheat Flour And Malt Barley, Milk, Salt, Sodium Bicarbonate), Nonfat Milk, Salt, Egg Whites, Artificial Flavor, Caramel Color, Soy Lecithin, Maltodextrin, Tbhq And Citric Acid, Vitamins And Minerals (Calcium Phosphate, Calcium Carbonate, Ferric Orthophosphate, Vitamin E Acetate, Ascorbic Acid, Vitamin E Acetate, Niacinamide, Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin A Palmitate, Pyridoxine Hydrocholoride, Riboflavin, Thiamin Mononitrate, Folic Acid, Biotin, Cholecalciferol (Vitamin D3), Cyanocobalamin (Vitamin B12).

    How a product with partially hydrogenated oils and maltitol syrup (the syrup of a sugar alcohol!) as its first ingredient can be described as ‘wholesome’ beats me.

    You might as well eat a small chocolate bar and pop a multivitamin.

    Why not have a handful (160 calories’ worth) of peanuts instead?

    It’s just as convenient and portable a snack as one of these bars, and doesn’t contribute added sugars or partially hydrogenated oils (trans fats) to your day.

    Added bonus if you choose peanuts? Heart-healthy monounsaturated fats!

    By the way, the “40% less sugar” banner on the box of these bars is the result of replacing half the sugar with maltitol (the sugar alcohol most likely to cause bloating, gas, and diarrhea. Yum!)

    Craving chocolate but looking to control calories? Have a 100-calorie chocolate bar, sans sugar alcohols. Savor it, enjoy it, and go about your day.


    You Ask, I Answer: B Vitamins & Mental Health

    What do you think about those TrueHope EMPower vitamins that make all kinds of claims about aiding mental health?

    I know B-complexes aid mental functioning, but is all of that really even bioavailable?

    — Anonymous
    Via the blog

    What do I think? I think it is an extremely disturbing — and dangerous — product.

    TrueHope advertises itself as “bringing hope, healing, and health through the research, development, and promotion of high effective nutritional supplements designed to correct mood disorders and other nutrient-depleted conditions.”

    In essence, they claim that mental conditions caused by chemical imbalances (such as bipolar disorder and depression) can be cured by popping what is, in essence, a daily multivitamin.

    This claim is based on “evidence” from very shoddy trials.

    In fact, there are a grand total of three, none of which are randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials (check out this Wikipedia link for “clinical trial 101” reading.)

    Anyhow, their “mood-corrective” formula contains very high (sometimes above the upper tolerable intake) doses of a multitude of vitamins and minerals, plus a handful of other ingredients like grape seed extract and methionine.

    One particularly disturbing included ingredient is vanadium, a trace mineral that people with bipolar disorder have been shown to actually have high levels of.

    I am at a complete loss as to why this is present in EMPower.

    Although it is true that the B vitamins play a role in mental function, that is very different from mood disorders.

    The idea that B vitamins help with bipolar disorder is equivalent to someone claiming that since Vitamin C supports immune system function, megadoses could be effective in curing someone of AIDS.

    If anyone ever attempts to tell you they can correct a mental disorder caused by a chemical imbalance through vitamins and minerals, be sure to run in the opposite direction and stay far, far away.

    By the way, this product has been extremely controversial in its native Canada, where psychiatry and mental health organizations have warned patients of the dangers of relying on a combination of vitamins and minerals to control their mood disorders.

    It has also been alleged that these pills “were supposedly designed to stop pigs from chewing each other’s tails.”


    Numbers Game: A Sweet Deal

    One medium sweet potato offers ______ percent of the daily vitamin C requirement and ___ percent of the daily vitamin A requirement.

    a) 25, 110
    b) 72, 204

    c) 37, 438

    d) 20, 98

    Leave your guess in the “comments” section and come back on Tuesday for the answer!


    Survey Results: Multivitamins

    The latest Small Bites survey found that 45% of respondents pop a multivitamin every day, while 31% feel no need to supplement their diet with an “all in one” pill.

    An additional 17% reported taking multivitamins not on a daily basis, and 5% are only concerned with getting specific vitamins and minerals in pill form.

    Although vitamin supplementation has its place (i.e.: Vitamin D for almost everyone, several key nutrients for the elderly and people on very low calorie diets, Vitamin B-12 for some vegans, folate for women planning to get pregnant, etc.) it can also lull many people into a fall sense of security.

    I recall a conversation with someone who told me he didn’t feel the need to eat fruits or vegetables since she was getting every single vitamin and mineral in pill form every day.

    Not quite. Many people forget that:

    1) No multivitamin offers 100% of every nutrient. Calcium, for instance, takes up a lot of space, so any pill offering an entire day’s worth (1,000 milligrams) would be too big. Besides, the body can only assimilate 500 milligrams of calcium at one given time, so a single dose of 1,000 milligrams is ineffective.

    2) Since multivitamins fall into the “supplement” category, they are not regulated by the Food & Drug Administration. In other words, the label may say 100% of 23 vitamins and minerals, but no entity is making sure such a statement is accurate.

    3) Multivitamins do not offer the hundreds of phytonutrients found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. These phytonutrients play important roles in health promotion and help certain vitamins and minerals operate efficiently in the body. Oranges, for instance, aren’t just about Vitamin C; they also provide flavonoids that help with blood sugar and cholesterol regulation.

    4) Intake does not equal absorption. Synthetic forms of vitamins and minerals are less bioavailable than their naturally occurring brothers and sisters. According to estimates, absorption of most nutrients in multivitamins does not go above the 50% mark.

    5) More is not always better. Some multivitamins contain excessive amounts of Vitamin E, which have been show to cause more harm than good.

    6) Nutrition and health go beyond simply getting enough vitamins and minerals. Calories, added sugars, saturated and trans fats, and fiber are just as worthy of attention. Getting a day’s worth of a handful of vitamins and minerals isn’t that spectacular if you aren’t consuming enough fiber and eating an overabundance of calories.

    I don’t think standard multivitamins as insurance for a balanced and adequate diet are cause for alarm, but anybody looking to get optimal nutrition should really look to food first (Vitamin D is the only nutrient I think everybody should be supplementing in their diet).


    You Ask, I Answer: Vitamin K

    What does Vitamin K do? What foods is it in?

    — Name Withheld
    Brooklyn, NY

    You kind of have to feel sorry for Vitamin K. It appears to be the least popular vitamin, and many people don’t even appear interested in getting to know it better.

    If Vitamin D is the life of the party, Vitamin K is standing by the punchbowl, futilely attempting to make small talk with other guests.

    I would definitely suggest being familiar with it, though, since this nutrient plays a very important role in blood clotting and bone density.

    You may wonder why its blood clotting properties are perceived as beneficial, particularly when one of the outed benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids is their blood thinning properties.

    We come back to the ever-present ideal of balance.

    Over-thinning of the blood is problematic, as it increases the risk of internal bleeding.

    Additionally, without blood clotting factors, something a small cut could result in excessive blood loss.

    Vitamin K helps with bone density by regulating calcitonin, a protein that locks calcium in the bone matrix, thereby making it more difficult for cells known as osteoclasts from breaking it down.

    If osteoclasts are more active than osteoblasts (which help create new bone tissue), your risk of osteoporisis increases significantly.

    What’s interesting about this nutrient is that we get it two different ways.

    K2, the more biologically active form, is synthesized by beneficial bacteria in our intestinal tract.

    Since babies start off with bacteria-free intestines, they are given a Vitamin K shot within hours of being born.

    The plant form — K1 — is found abundantly in leafy green vegetables. Although our intestinal bacteria produce some Vitamin K, we still need to get some from our diet.

    A mere half cup of steamed kale, spinach, and collard greens each pack in six times the Daily Value!

    A single cup of raw romaine lettuce provides three quarters of a day’s worth.

    Anyone who has ever been on blood-thinning medication (i.e.: warfarin, more commonly known as Coumadin) has been told to be mindful of their Vitamin K intake so as to prevent unwanted drug-nutrient interactions.

    Here’s why.

    Warfarin, an anticoagulant, decreases clotting (this is why it is mostly prescribed to heart disease patients.)

    A lot of people inaccurately think that the best thing to do when put on warfarin is completely eliminate Vitamin K from the diet.

    Not so! The key is to keep vitamin K intake consistent.

    Suddenly increasing Vitamin K consumption renders Coumadin ineffective, whereas decreasing it too much in a short amount of time will overly thin the blood.

    Remember, too, that antibiotics kill all flora in the gut — the negative AND positive bacteria (this includes the one that produces Vitamin K.)

    Therefore, when on antibiotics, do not drastically alter your Vitamin K intake.

    A clinical dietitian I know at New York City’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital recently told a most interesting anecdote about a patient who was put on coumadin.

    A dietary recall revealed that her diet was very high in Vitamin K. Not a problem, but definitely important in the scheme of things.

    Soon thereafter, she fell very ill, to the point where she stopped eating. Mind you, she was still on Coumadin.

    In other words, her vitamin K drastically decreased (from about 1200% of the Daily Value a day to absolutely nothing).

    To counteract the illness, she was given antibiotics (remember, she is still on Coumadin).

    The antiobiotics wiped out gut flora.

    So, she now had a high Coumadin dose (based on her standard Vitamin K intake) but no Vitamin K from her diet OR her intestinal tract.

    Not surprisingly, she bled internally and had to be rushed into surgery.


    You Ask, I Answer: Saturated Fat

    So is 30 to 35 percent total fat from calories a moderate-fat diet and above 35 percent a high-fat diet?

    How much fat, as a percentage of total calories, do you think is safe to consume?

    What do you see as the safe upper limit for total fat intake?

    How much saturated fat can one consume with out risking clogged arteries?

    — David Brown
    Kalispell, MT

    Since we are talking about ranges, there is room for fluidity.

    Here is how I break it down.

    Anything below 15 percent of total calories from fat falls under the “very low fat” category.

    I classify the range between 15 and 30 percent of total calories from fat as “low-fat” (with, say, 16 percent being closer to “very low in fat” and 29 being very close to “moderate”).

    The 30 – 40 range is “moderate”, and anything above 40 is “high”.

    What makes your question much more complex, though, is that fat is by no means a simple nutrient.

    I can not simply throw out a figure and say, “Consume 35 percent of calories from fat” without giving additional detail.

    For example, make most of those fats mono and polyunsaturated, aim for an Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio no higher than 5:1, and avoid artificial trans fats (some animal meats naturally contain trans fats, which I am not worried about).

    If someone’s “35 percent of total calories from fat” is mainly comprised of trans fats, I would certainly not describe it as healthy intake.

    That same percentage consisting of mainly mono and polyunsaturated fats, however, would get two thumbs up.

    This shouldn’t come as a big shock to regular readers of this blog.

    Besides, does anybody seriously think four strips of bacon or a quarter cup of half and half are healthier than a grilled wild salmon steak or half an avocado?

    As for your safe upper limit question: you won’t find a technical “Upper Limit” (how much of a nutrient it takes to have detrimental, rather than beneficial, health effects) for saturated fat.

    However, the 10 percent figure (which, as I will explain a little later in more detail, basically recommends that people consume no more than 10 percent of total calories from saturated fat) serves as an Upper Limit.

    Thereby, intakes of, say, 40 percent have not shown to be beneficial to health.

    One main problem with mainstream talk about nutrition is that it oversimplifies nutrients, especially fats and carbohydrates.

    After all, a carb is not a carb is not a carb. Oatmeal, bananas, and baked potatoes are very different from donuts and Jolly Ranchers.

    The first three provide fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. The last two are virtually empty calories.

    This is why I strongly oppose blanket statements like, “carbs are bad.” Really?

    You mean to tell me that fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are no different than a cupcake?

    It is also important to place nutrients in the right context.

    Sports nutritionists and exercise physiologists agree, based on evidence-based research, that easily digestible carbohydrates that would normally not be outright recommended as highly nutritious (ie: white rice) can serve an important purpose after a strenuous workout.

    Forego carbs after a very intense, long workout and glycogen stores are not fully restored. This is problematic, as it may result in the breakdown of muscle.

    As for how much saturated fat someone can consume without risking clogged arteries, you have to, once again, frame it in the appropriate context.

    I stand by the “make no more than ten percent of your total calories saturated fat” rule, but keep in mind this is over a period of time.

    Let’s assume you eat 2,500 calories a day.

    Ten percent of 2500 calories = 250 calories.

    Divide 250 calories by 9 (the amount of calories per gram of fat) and you get 27.7.

    So, you should get no more than 28 grams of saturated fat a day.

    Does this mean that downing 40 grams at a birthday dinner is going to send you into coronary hell? Not at all.

    What matters, as I always like to mention, are general patterns.

    If you generally stay within that 10 percent figure, your risk is lowered.

    If, however, the norm is 30 percent (in this case, 83 grams of saturated fat a day) for five, ten, or fifteen years, you will very likely run into problems.

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