Tag Archives: Omega-3

Eat This! Don’t Take That!

Multivitamins, fish oil, antioxidants, vitamin D, B-complex vitamins, conjugated linoleic acid, amino acids, protein powders, chromium, pyruvate, GuChomps/Gel Packs, creatine, fat burners, how many supplements do we need? You might be sick of hearing me say this, but let your body do its job. Why all of a sudden do we feel it is necessary to incorporate supplements in our diet? Our body has always been able to do its job.

Supplements are just that, designed to supplement, not overrun the diet. We only need enough to make up for shortfall of our recommended dietary allowance. RDA is the dietary intake level of a nutrient considered sufficient by the Food and Nutrition Board. These nutrient levels are set to meet the needs for over 95% of the population. The kicker is that most balanced diets of 2,000 calories will meet these needed levels. Eating more is not better.

Without a doubt, nutrients play an integral in human physiology, but over abundance of a particular nutrient may inhibit other physiological functions, creating a nutrient tug-o-war. There are Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (UL) that are set to caution against excessive nutrient consumption, because it can be harmful. Yet, despite eating a balanced meal, many still take additional supplements that can have significant adverse reactions.

There are a scant few in the population that actually need supplements. For example, nursing or pregnant women, those with strict calorie restrictions or nutritional deficits secondary food intolerance, seniors or those with medical illness and some athletes. But, these individuals need a select few supplements, not excessive amounts of unnecessary supplements.

For this blog, I wanted to talk about the most common nutritional supplements, share their toxicity effects and then provide a reasonable food source that is a better choice that the supplement of choice.

Don’t Take That: Multivitamin

Really, is your body deficient in 30 plus vitamins and minerals? You might be deficient in 1 or 2, but not all. Many times the vitamin / mineral intake level of a the standard multivitamin far exceeds RDA levels and sometimes certain vitamins or minerals are near the UL. Now, add this with normal eating and you are certain to go beyond the UL in many of your vitamins and minerals. This creates toxic effects, which can alter normal body physiology, cause illness, and inhibit other minerals from doing their job.

Eat This! A Well-balance meal

This is easy, to get all of your vitamins and minerals in adequate levels eat a well-balanced meal that meets your caloric needs. This will prevent toxicity and get all vitamins and nutrients for optimal human functioning.

Don’t Take That: Vitamin D

Vitamin D certainly has a positive impact on the body, including increased bone mineral density. Unfortunately, chronic overdose of Vitamin D can lead to hyperparathyroidism and hypercalcemia, which can lead to nausea, weakness, insomnia, and even renal failure.

Eat This! Mushrooms, fish, and sunlight.

Most of the Vitamin D needed for you body can be achieved through our own internal synthesis. In just 10-15 minutes of sunlight your skin will begin to synthesize vitamin D. However, if you live in a cave, or are nocturnal, eat fish – catfish, salmon, mackerel with a side of mushrooms to get your vitamin D needs.

Don’t Take That: Omega-3

Omega-3 fatty acids or fish oils are the absolute best fat one can have. They are best known for the significant cardiovascular benefits. Unfortunately, excessive amounts cause excessive bleeding, stroke, headaches,  increased blood glucose levels, and Gastrointestinal disorders.

Eat This! Fish, avacados, nuts, flax seeds, oils

There are many foods that are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. It is easy to get the recommended amount in the typical diet. In addition, to the richness of Omega-3 content you also get all the other nutrients that accompany these foods, making food a much better option than the supplement.

Don’t Take That: B-Complex Vitamins

A water soluble vitamin that has many positive effects such as reduced stress, increased energy, and higher metabolic rates. Since B vitamins are water soluble toxic effects are rare as the excess is typically excreted in urine. However, Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) is linked to peripheral neuroathy, and B12 is linked to pernicious anemia disease, but these are rare. Others have been linked to skin and neurological disorders. The biggest factor here is that we rarely need them

Eat This! Most foods

Found in most unprocessed foods, plants, dairy products, meats and fortified cereals, it is rare that we have a deficiency in B-vitamins. If you are stressed, or lacking energy, go exercise – don’t take a pill, you will just excrete it all in a few hours anyway.

Don’t Take That: Vitamin C

Known for it’s ability to boost the immune system, vitamin C is widely used and found as an additive to many foods. That said the research to support these claims are suspect at best. Vitamin C is also known as an effective antioxidant for its ability to reduce oxidative stress, through removal of free radicals. As a water soluble vitamin, excess Vitamin C is excreted in the urine, however, there is a  risk for diarrhea and in rare cases the formation of kidney stones is possible.

Eat This! Citrus Fruits

Rich sources include oranges, peppers, grapefruits, peaches, papayas, pineapples, broccoli, strawberries, tomatoes, and melons.

Don’t Take That: Protein Supplement

Protein supplements, particularly, meal replacement shakes with a 4:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio taken 15-45 minutes after exercise, has significant benefits for refueling lost energy stores. Sadly, most will take protein supplements throughout the day – even when not exercising. Very little quality evidence exists showing positive effects of more than 2 grams/kg body weight of protein per day. Most literature recommends 1.2-1.8 grams / kg of body weight per day.  Then there is the other theory that our body can only digest a certain amount of protein per hour – so excessive amounts gets converted or is passed through. So why spend the money?

Eat This! Meat, dairy, some plants

If you are exercising a post workout protein shake might be beneficial. If you are skipping meals, a protein shake might be beneficial. Otherwise save your money, eat  lean meats such as turkey, chicken, pork, and fish. In addition, dairy products, and beans are good protein sources. It’s cheaper and tastes better than chalk flavored milk.

Don’t Take That: Energy Gummies

These have become the rage for long distance endurance athletes. Energy gummies are filled with electrolytes, antioxidants, and amino acids to combat breakdown, fatigue and provide long lasting energy. Great right? Sure, but why spend the money if something cheaper works just as well or better.

Eat This! Raisins

A study published a few years ago compared raisins vs. energy gummies. There was no difference in performance between the raisin group and the gummy group. In addition, the raisin group showed a lower insulin spike when compared to the gummy group, a win for the raisin. Plus, the raisin group demonstrated higher free fatty acid content in the blood post activity. What does this mean, for the same performance gains, raisins allowed for more fat metabolism vs. gummy candy – most of us could stand to lose fat.

I know I will catch flack for this. Many of my friends are big supplement supporters. Yes, supplements do serve a purpose, but only in moderation and only if you need it. If you question whether or not you need a supplement, seek consultation from a registered dietitian – they will evaluate your diet and tell you exactly what you need.

Is the US Government Responsible for the American Obesity and Chronic Disease Epidemic?

Chronic medical conditions is the leading cause of death in the United States. Nearly half of all adults have at least one chronic medical condition. Over the past 20 years there has been a significant rise in chronic disease. Over the past 15 years childhood obesity and diabetes is growing at an astronomical rate. Who is to blame? Nobody can really state exactly who, but  is it possible that the US government, specifically the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is responsible?

1992 Food Guide Pyramid

In 1992, the USDA released the first Food Guide Pyramid. The USDA obviously had good intentions, through heavy research the pyramid was developed to prevent, chronic disease, obesity, and dental carries. Over the years the Food Guide Pyramid evolved to in to more user-friendly versions, MyPyramid (2005) and MyPlate (2011). Despite making the guides more user-friendly, the USDA did little to evaluate data and change the science supporting the pyramid.  Unfortunately, the USDA got it completely wrong. Since the ’92 Food Guide Pyramid was released there has been a dramatic increase in chronic disease and obesity. Has the Food Guides failed the American people?

Let us evaluate the guides. The ’92 version has grains, fruits, and vegetables filling the bottom two rows of the pyramid, accounting for 20 of 26 possible servings. The 2005 version is much of the same, with a large portion dedicated to carbohydrates, but like the ’92 version, the largest portion is dedicated to grains. The 2011, MyPlate is simplified for the consumer, but again indicates most of your plate be comprised of carbohydrates. In fact, when you breakdown the percentages the guides recommend the consumer eat approximately 75% of calories from carbohydrate sources. What is wrong with this you ask? Well, below I have outlined 5 reasons why the USDA might be responsible for the rise in chronic disease and obesity.

Five Reasons Why the USDA Might Be Responsible for the American Obesity and Chronic Disease Epidemic

Reason #1: Misleading information

The guides suggest grains (bread, pasta, rice) account for the largest portion of carbohydrate consumption. The guides do not state 100% whole-grain. To the average consumer, this gives the impression that refined breads and pasta is a fantastic option.  So, the lay person, goes to a restaurant orders a plate of spaghetti and a side of garlic bread, and thinks -‘this is a healthy low-fat meal’. After all, according to the guides this meal is well within the guidelines set forth by the USDA.

Additionally, the original guide said 6-11 servings of breads, grains, and pasta / day. Servings is key, because most individuals, myself included, grossly overestimate what constitutes a serving. Another note on servings: it gives a range of servings; 6-11 servings. This tells the consumer that you must have a minimum of 6 servings of grains. This misleading information has led to over-eating and over-eating of the wrong foods.

Reason #2: Satiety

Countless studies have correlated carbohydrate intake to increased hunger, specifically foods with high glycemic index (1, 2, 3). Primarily because of the insulin and blood glucose spike caused following the ingestion of carbohydrates. Newer research indicates that a higher than normal protein diet may actually be the reason for their partial success in inducing weight loss (4). Weigle, et al, found that the subjects felt more satiated with high-protein diet (5). In addition, Weigle’s team found total caloric intake decreased with when consuming more protein (5). There are two theories behind protein’s ability to increase satiety: 1 – High protein foods take longer to digest and leave the gut. 2 – Protein may impact our the hunger and satiety hormones of ghrelin and leptin. So the USDA is telling us to eat foods, that physiologically trigger us to eat more.

Reason #3: Insulin

When we eat carbohydrates insulin is released by the pancreas to begin glucose uptake from the blood. Insulin’s job is to take blood glucose and facilitate storage of glycogen  – our primary energy source. Insulin is also an indirect gate-keeper to fat metabolism, by inhibiting the release of glucagon. Glucagon is a hormone that has the opposite role of insulin. Glucagon is designed to take glycogen and convert it to glucose. Glucagon also creates glucose through lipolysis (the breakdown of fat). If we eat carbohydrates, the insulin response inhibits glucagon – thus prevents us from burning fat.

Reason #4: Elevated Inflammatory Markers

Chronic inflammation is a primary cause of most chronic diseases (6). Excessive consumption of refined carbohydrates, low dietary fiber intake, and a high omega-6 to omega-3 ratios are strongly associated with the production of proinflammatory molecules (7). One large study compared a Western diet and high protein diet. In this study, the western diet group had greater levels of inflammatory markers, including CRP and E-selectin, whereas those on the high protein diet had a significant decrease of inflammatory markers (8).

Reason #5: Importance Fat

In the original food guide pyramid it is stated that fats should be used sparingly. In both the 2005 version and 2011 version, the USDA’s guide says nothing about fat. This gives the impression that fat should be avoided. This is a huge mistake. Fat, specifically, Omega-3 fats – found in nuts, fish, and seeds – is very important. Clinical studies in adults with high cholesterol have shown that nuts lower LDL-cholesterol and improve the overall blood lipid profile (9). Additionally, frequent nut and seed consumption is associated with lower levels of inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein (CRP), IL-6 and fibrinogen(10).

Does this indicate the USDA got it wrong and led the American people down the wrong path? I believe the aforementioned reasons have led to an increase in obesity and chronic disease in America. Is it really a coincidence that following the release of the guides there has been a dramatic rise in obesity and chronic disease? That being said, I believe in personal responsibility – I think it is up to the individual to make wise decisions. The USDA is not telling people to stop exercising. So, although I believe the USDA may have been a contributor – some blame should be put on the people.

What do you think? Can we blame the USDA’s Food Guides for steering the American people in the wrong direction?

References:

  1. Wien M A, et al. Almonds vs complex carbohydrates in a weight reduction program. Int J Obes 2003. 27:1365-1372
  2. Roberts SB. High-glycemic index foods, hunger, and obesity: is there a connection? Nutrition Review 2000. 58:163-169
  3. Arumugam V, et al. A high-glycemic meal pattern elicited increased subjective appetite sensations in overweight and obese women. Appetite. July, 2007.
  4. Astrup A, Meinert Larsen T, Harper A. Atkins and other low-carbohydrate diets: hoax or an effective tool for weight loss? Lancet 2004;364:897
  5. Weigle DS, Breen PA, Matthys CC, et al. A high-protein diet induces sustained reductions in appetite, ad libitum caloric intake, and body weight despite compensatory changes in diurnal plasma leptin andghrelin concentrations. Am J Clin Nutr 2005;82:41–8.
  6. Stehouwer CDA, Gall M-A. Twisk JWR, Knudsen E. Emeis JJ. Parving H-H. Increased urinary albumin excretion, endothelial dysfunction and chronic low-grade inflammation in type 2 diabetes: progressive, interrelated, and independently associated with risk of death. Diabetes.2002;51(4): 1157-1165.
  7. Neustadt J. Western Diet and Inflammation. IMCJ. Vol. 10: 2  Apr/May 2011.
  8. Lopez-Garcia E, Schulze MB, Fung TT, et al. Major dietary patterns are related to plasma concentrations of markers of inflammation and endothelial dysfunction. Am JClin Nutr.2004;80(4):1029-1035.
  9. Mukuddem-Petersen J, Oosthuizen W & Jerling J. A systematic review of the effects of nuts on blood lipid profiles in humans. J Nutr. 135: 2005. 2082–2089.
  10. Rajaram, S, Connell, KM, and Sabate´ J. Effect of almond-enriched high-monounsaturated fat diet on selected markers of inflammation: a randomised, controlled, crossover study. BR J of Nut.  2010: 103, 907–912.