Iron: The Fundamental Element

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

(Pharmacist Ben)Iron, though birthed in the interior stars, is perhaps the most fundamental element of life on earth. In fact, it would be difficult to find a multi-cellular organism on our little blue planet that can survive without the third most abundant of her elements (after silicon and oxygen).

In the human body, nutritional iron is an essential component of hundreds of enzymes and proteins. One of the most noticeable signs of iron deficiency is that you just don’t feel so good! That’s because one of iron’s most important roles is to deliver energizing oxygen to cells and remove toxic carbon dioxide.

Iron, the Fundamental ElementFor decades, iron supplements have been regarded as a panacea for most cases of the “blahs”. There are two types of iron found in foods: heme iron from meat and fish and non-heme iron found in meat, fish and vegetables. Of the two, heme iron is easier to absorb. Non-soaked grains and legumes as well as soy and compounds in tea, wine and coffee further hinder bio-availability. Vitamin C can improve the absorption of non-heme iron, so squeeze lots of lemon juice on your spinach!

One important note about iron: you can have too much of a good thing. Iron is so critical to the body that most of it is recycled, not excreted or used up. And because of its highly electrical nature, iron overload can be a problem. Woman lose iron through menstruation and studies show that blood donors have lower rates of disease and are generally healthier than average. Non-blood donor men however, especially those consuming a lot of meat, may be at risk for iron overload. Unless you’re deficient, the best way to make sure you are getting enough iron is through quality heme iron sources and lots of iron containing plant foods like beans, chard, avocado and the aforementioned spinach.

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Nutrition

Good News If You Love Butter and Cheese

By Ben Fuchs | PharmacistBen

Good News If You Love Butter and Cheese

Butter at the Borough Market in London. Image credit: Charles Haynes [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia

(PharmacistBen) If you love butter and cheese you’re gonna love this: Last week a study was published in the respected British Medical Journal showing evidence that 60 years of government and medical convention linking cardiovascular disease to fat consumption was based on bad science.

The article scientifically corroborated last years’ Time Magazine cover story on the failures of the so-called “Lipid Hypothesis” (lipid is the scientific designation for fat) , which incorrectly blamed excessive consumption of dairy products, meat and other fatty foods for heart attacks. The article entitled “Eat Butter” admitted that after years or proclaiming fats as villains, as it turns out, they may have been mistaken.Now in fairness, Time Magazine and representatives of the medical model can be forgiven for their ignorance. Fats are confusing. There’s good fats, bad fats, shorts fat, long fats saturated fats and unsaturated fats and because of their tremendous diversity and functionality, no aspect of nutrition or diet is harder to understand than the chemistry of lipids.

Dietary and nutritional fats are called triglycerides. They’re composed of building blocks called “fatty acids” which come in three sizes large, medium and small. While they all three play an important role in keeping the body healthy the effects of the short fats or as they are more technically called, short chain fatty acids (SCFAs), is particularly significant, if unrecognized. These little molecular fatty structures play an especially huge role in the health of the intestine and via this link they have can affect the whole body.

SCFAs are made in the large intestine by fiber munching bacteria which secrete the fatty molecules as a byproduct. SCFAs can also be ingested via the diet. From the intestine these tiny lipids readily enter into the blood circulation and travel throughout the body eventually entering into the brain.

An increase in SCFA concentration in the blood is one of the main signals for appetite suppression. In essence SCFAs biochemically curb the appetite and in essence represent a type fat that helps you drop pounds. Eat butter, lose weight! While it may seem like fat is fat and all just sits around on our thighs or hips and does nothing, from a biology perspective fats are quite active as messenger molecules telling the body and brain what’s happening in the digestive system. They are signaling molecules and once this is understood it becomes clear why the outdated dietician and medical advice to avoid all fat is bad science and bad health advice.

Short fats can have brain health benefits too, especially when comes to calming things down. This fact explains the important link between the intestine and the brain, the so-called gut-brain axis, and its relationship to the development of schizophrenia, autism and mental health issues in general. Via this SCFA mechanism, the somewhat counter-intuitive notion (after all the intestine is located about as far away from the brain as you can get!) that what we eat affects how we think can be explained.

All SCFAs have a calming effect but the most significant as far as relaxation benefits are concerned is called butyric acid,the chemical that gives butter is characteristic qualities and taste. The bacteria that produce butyric acid kick into high gear when food is scarce and many researchers believe this is the mechanism behind the health benefits associate with fasting.

And butyric acid derivatives induced by caloric restriction may have a mitigating effect on pain and inflammation. That’s what’s scientists from Yale School of Medicine concluded in an article that was published in the journal “Nature Medicine”. Even more significantly, the researchers found that these benefits may extend to health challenges like atherosclerosis, diabetes and dementias that are typically not associated with inflammatory pain.

All of this means that upregulating butyric acid and increasing its levels in the blood can be one of the most important and effective of all dietary health strategies. Enjoying butter and cheese, nature’s richest sources of butyric acid is a good idea. And, because butyric acid is produced by a reaction between fiber and microbes that live in the large intestine you want to make sure you’ve got enough good bacteria and you’re ingesting generous amounts of veggies, mushrooms and fruits. Get yourself on a good probiotic supplement, look for multiple strains of bacteria and use a daily dose of 10-50 billion units and make sure you’re eating lots of fermented foods like sauerkraut, miso soup and fresh, non-pasteurized kefir and yogurt

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Nutrition

Mighty 90 Essential Nutrients Detox

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

Mrs. Adams looked grumpy,but who could blame her. She had just gotten out of the hospital and her first stop after being discharged was my pharmacy and her first order of business was having a stack of prescriptions filled. And, aside from the fact that Mrs. Adams was going to be parting with a significant chunk of change (she had a twenty dollar co-pay which meant her 12 prescriptions were going to costing her 240 bucks), she was about to bombard her biology with enough chemical poisons to make her body eligible as a toxic waste dump. To compound her problems, unbeknownst to Mrs. Adams and probably her doctor too, not only were her pharmacological protocols going to be poisoning her body, but even worse, unless she was savvy enough to get on a supplement program, she was inevitably going to be dealing with the consequences of nutrient deficiency that could conceivably lead to a whole host of pathological symptomology, and might even shorten her life.

Mighty 90 Healthy Start PackOne of the more significant, if underappreciated, aspects of prescription drug toxicity, involves the depletion of nutritional raw materials that fuel the detoxification system, the collective term for the ordinarily extremely effective purifying processes that are, for the most part, housed in the liver. That’s because these detoxifying biochemical reactions all depend on the must-have “essential” nutrients known as the “Mighty 90” to do their work. In fact, every chemical reaction in the body depends on these essential substances and in the presence of excessive poisons (drugs), detox “machinery” can become like a metaphorical sinkhole, diverting and draining nutritional elements, keeping them from participating in the many other biochemical reactions that are responsible for maintaining the health and integrity of the human body.

Vital vitamins, mandatory minerals, and important amino acids and fatty acids are not only key detox players, but are also important molecules involved in providing cells with energy, and protection; and also as mechanical raw materials for building structural components of cells and tissues. The more drugs we take and the more they accumulate in the body, the more nutrients will be diverted from the heart, brain, skin, and various glands and organs and into the liver for detoxification. If they are not replaced via food and supplements, over time they can become depleted and not only will purification and elimination of poisons become compromised but so will also thousands of other biochemical reactions that likewise are dependent on the presence of these critically important biochemicals.

The key point is that the depletion of the “Mighty 90” that follows the entrance of drugs/toxins into the body, and the subsequent increases in detoxification activity may show up as a breakdown in any of the countless biochemical processes that occur in the body. Respiratory, cardiovascular, and nervous system dysfunctions are especially likely. as these systems require large amounts of nutrition. The same is true of the digestive system and the skin. In fact any pathology is possible under conditions of nutrient deficiency, BUT because these disease symptoms may not be directly linked to specific pharmacological toxins they won’t be considered a side effect. These symptoms may not even show up on the package insert that by law must list all possible adverse reactions, but nonetheless, even if merely indirectly, they can be considered to be manifestations of the toxicity prescription drugs.

Thus the introduction of any poisons into the body, while obviously not in an organism’s interest, and which by definition can directly initiate toxicity, may also result in indirect negative effects simply by costing the body precious nutritional materials. Sure, the detox system is great and wonderfully efficient, but it needs raw materials to do its work. These raw materials are the essential vitamins, minerals and fatty and amino acids, and the more detoxification work that occurs, the greater the cost in these nutrients, and the more likely the appearance of side effects related to deficiency. All of us need the “Mighty 90” or “90 for Life”. The countless chemical reactions in the body depend on their presence, and because they can’t be made, they must be obtained and ingested. But if you’re on prescription drugs, which suck up nutrition like a dry sponge sucks up water, its extra important that you to be replacing them via diet and especially via supplementation. Focus especially on detox vitamin Like Vitamin C (500mg a day), Vitamin E (400 iu a day), and the B-complex (use a B-100 capsule several times a day), and sip on Youngevity’s Beyond Tangy Tangerine which is packed with all the B vitamins). Minerals like magnesium (1500mg a day), zinc (50mg a day) and copper (2-4 mg) a day can also be helpful. Hyaluronic acid (200mg a day) and glutamine (1-5 grams a day), while not strictly must-have biomolecules, can provide additional support for detoxification system.

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Nutrition

Choline is a Stabilizing Force

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

On the TV show Star Trek, when the starship Enterprise makes the jump from regular cruising to warp speed there’s a momentary jolt as the spaceship leaps to the higher, faster-than-light velocity. This type of bumpy ride is a boundary phenomenon and is always experienced as changes occur from one condition to another. Changes, after all, are never easy! This bumpy boundary “change” that occurs as one speed is changing to the next can be thought of as a type of membrane which is in essence an adjustment from one type of substance to another. Scientists call these substances “phases” and they refer to the change that occurs from one phase to another as a “phase shift”. Phase shifts can be thought of as transformations and anytime there is a transformation there is going to be a period of adjustment, hence the bump. And, that phase shift/ period of adjustment is chemically represented by what is referred to as the membrane.

Choline is a stabilizing forceThis transition from the watery milieu inside a cell through the oily cell covering and into the outer cellular environment is regulated and facilitated by the chemical components of the membrane. And, of these chemical components, which include fats and proteins, none is more important than choline, a molecule that can have BOTH watery and fatty properties. This ambidextrous nature makes choline an ideal molecule for the membrane transition area.

Choline thus acts like a stabilizing force that allows the membrane to segregate the inside world of a cell from the outside environment it’s sitting in. In this way choline can be considered to be a converting chemical that can connect and transform the energetics, the energy activity of water molecules which have has a particular type of structural pattern (scientists call it polar) to the energy activity of oil which from a molecular standpoint is more like an unstructured straight line (scientists call it non-polar).

Although choline intake is considered to be far below the adequate levels established by the Institute of Medicine, a non-profit health and nutrition think tank, choline is available in lots of foods. Fatty fish, beans, peanuts and organ meats especially liver (always a great source of nutrients) are good sources. Collard greens, broccoli and Brussels sprouts are also rich in choline. Lecithin is one of the best sources; it’s largely composed of choline and choline derivatives. And of course choline is available as a nutritional supplement. There’s no RDA dose for choline, it wasn’t even recognized as an essential must-have nutrient until 1998, but 200 to 500mg is probably a good minimum daily dose.

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Nutrition

Essential Sugars

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

Sugar is pretty interesting stuff. It is also misunderstood. For one thing, we all love how “sugar” tastes, but we don’t necessarily love its effects. And that presents a problem. Despite it’s well-documented health hazards, because we love the stuff, no matter how much we try to abstain, when it comes right down to it, turning down that apple pie a la mode or peach gelato, as much as we’d like to, can be pretty difficult, and at times impossible. That’s because our brains (our brainy cells which are fueled by the sweet and sticky substance) are hardwired to love sugar! On the other hand the downside of sugar ingestion, which includes weight gain, diabetes, eye disease, hypertension, jitteriness, and anxiety, well–those we would rather do without. Thus the love-hate relationship we have with what is generally referred to as “sugar”.

Essential Sugars

Sugar cane plantation ready for harvest, São Paulo State, Brazil – By Mariordo , via Wikimedia Commons

But, unbeknownst to many, there’s a whole other side to the subject of sugar! The chemical that most of us know as “sugar” and the substance that is so problematic is actually a special type of sugar called “glucose”. And, as it turns out, glucose is just one version of 8 different sugars that are collectively, if not entirely accurately, referred to as “essential”. These 7 other essential sugars aren’t very tasty or sweet, but importantly, they provide lots of health benefits.

One of these essential sugars is called N-acetyl glucosamine (NAG) from which the arthritis-fighting nutritional supplement glucosamine can be derived. NAG can be especially helpful for skin health. The body can use it as a raw material for the production of the skin’s natural moisturizer hyaluronic acid. It can help prevent and reduce fine line and crow’s feet formation by activating collagen making cells. It may even be used topically to help lighten dark spots and improve other visible signs of skin aging, including thinning and wrinkled skin. And, its digestive system supporting properties can help improve immune system health and reduce the entrance of skin destroying inflammatory factors through the small intestine. In fact under conditions of digestive distress, especially leaky gut syndrome, it’s likely the body will divert NAG away from the skin to help repair the gut lining. That means less NAG available for keeping skin youthful, moisturized, and robust.

Good food sources of NAG include aloe, shitake mushrooms, and cartilage. And, If you’re interested in using N-acetyl glucosamine, it’s available in a supplement form; try a daily dose of 500 or so mg. Or, If you want to use NAG topically, anti-aging skin health benefits can be derived by applying it directly onto the skin. Try making your own skin lightening and tightening toner by putting the contents of one or two 500mg capsules of NAG in a cup or two of distilled water or aloe vera gel. Pour a little on cotton pad and rub it gently on your face 4 or 5 times a week.

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Nutrition

Half an Avocado

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

This past November’s issue of the highly regarded publication ”Nutritional Journal” has a cool article about avocados. It quotes a study (entitled, somewhat awkwardly, “A Randomized Crossover Study to Evaluate the Effect of Haas Avocado Intake on Post-Ingestive Satiety and Insulin Levels and Subsequent Energy Intake in Overweight Adults “!) that compared the effects of adding a fresh avocado to a lunchtime meal to the effects of eating a standard non-avocado-including lunch. Scientists were looking to see how avocado consumption would influence blood sugar and insulin responses, and satisfaction and further food intake.Half an Avocado The researchers, from the Department of Nutrition at Loma Linda University found that participants who added half an avocado to their lunch reported a significantly decreased desire to eat by 40 percent over a three hour period and 28 percent over a five hour period compared to their desire to eat after a standard, non-avocado-containing lunch. Even more significantly, their satisfaction was long lasting. Three hours after eating participants reported increased satisfaction by 26 percent. And the avocados didn’t throw off blood sugar. According to Dr. Joan Sabat who led the research team “…there was no increase in blood sugar levels beyond what was observed after eating the standard lunch”.

So what is it that makes avocados so satisfying? Well, aside from the fiber and the nutrients which are always satiety-inducing, probably the most hunger busting element of the succulent green fruit are the fats. Avocados are among the plant world’s most lipid-dense products, containing significant amounts of both saturated and unsaturated fats. According to the USDA, 1 cup of avocado contains over 4 teaspoons of fat. What’s more, it’s got nearly 3 grams of protein (about as much as half an egg) and nearly 25 percent of the RDA of Vitamin C. And, next to zero calories derived from sugar! Considering that kind of nutritional payoff, it’s no wonder that avocados have been farmed for millennia. They’re one of the oldest cultivated fruits; Central American farmers have been growing them since 8000 BC.

The most common avocado is the Hass variety, it comprises over 75 percent of the US avocado crop, which is located and largely concentrated in California, Florida and Hawaii and boasts business of nearly half a billion dollars annually. Other varieties include the oversized Florida Fuerte avocado that’s less fatty and gram for gram lower in calories than the venerable Haas, and the cocktail avocado which is pitless, and as tasty and delicious as it is difficult to peel and hard to find.

Did you know you can prevent avocados from browning by sprinkling the flesh with a little lime or lemon juice?
Use lots of Celtic Sea Salt on raw, fresh avocados. The salt and avocado fats will act synergistically to amplify the distinctive tastes and subtle flavors of the rich, buttery fruit.
Can’t wait to eat your hard avocado? You can hasten it’s ripening by putting it in a paper bag. The bag will trap ethylene oxide, a ripening-inducing gas that is emitted by the tasty fruit as it ages. Make sure you keep the bag in a dark cool area and you check your avocado regularly or you may end up making guacamole!

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Nutrition

Are Multi Vitamins a Waste of Money?

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

Are Vitamin Pills a Waste of your Time and Money?
Don’t Waste Your Money on Multi Vitamins
Multi Vitamins: A Waste of Money?
Lol, despite the provocative and somewhat incendiary headlines plastered all over the media, even a cursory reading of the actual article originally published in the Annals of Internal Medicine (AIM), reveals scant evidence that taking a multi-vitamin is indeed a waste of money.

Are Multi Vitamins a Waste of Money?

By Ragesoss, via Wikimedia Commons

The breathless headings and catchy captions refer to the conclusions of an AIM editorial that was based on the result of two studies. The first one looked at 1700 North American adults aged 50 and older who had a myocardial infarction at least 6 weeks prior to the beginning of the study, and who randomly received, EITHER a high dose 28 component vitamin mineral formulation or a placebo. The second study was done on 6000 male physicians, aged 65 or older, and who randomly received a daily multi-vitamin or a placebo. In the first study after 4.5 years follow-up mortality was no different between the vitamin group and the placebo group and in the second, after 6.5 years follow-up, vitamin-popping medical men showed no significant improvements in global cognition or verbal memory over their placebo taking colleagues.

No mention is made of what kind or amounts of vitamins were taken, when they were taken, what they were taken with or of what kind of health conditions or challenges participants were confronting, especially in terms of digestive health. We don’t know even know if, and how effectively, the participants were absorbing their mufti-vitamin supplements? Without answers to these kinds of questions it’s impossible to derive any meaning from this kind of research let alone conclude that that regular intake of is waste of money. In fact, drawing these kind of conclusions from what are two, in essence meaningless, studies is at best ignorant and a classic example of sensationalism and yellow journalism, with no other purpose than attracting attention, and at worst dishonest, deceitful and misleading misdirection designed to cast aspersions on nutritional supplementation, and create doubt and cynicism on the entire world of non-medical health care.

One of the most important points to consider about these periodic hit pieces that come out about multi-vitamin supplementation is the glib and very non-scientific way the word “vitamin” is used. Technically there are only 6 vitamins, specifically designated as B, C, D, E, A, and K; and they are all ESSENTIAL. The human body cannot live without them. They are as fundamental and as necessary as air and water. However many health care professionals use the term for essential, vital life-giving chemicals called vitamins as a catch-all descriptive term to designate any kind of molecular substance that is used to support the nutritional content of the diet including minerals, herbs, and other non-vitamin molecules. These health care professionals, who should know better, seem to think that the word vitamin is synonymous with a little pill that you take every morning. As in, should you take a vitamin? Or don’t take vitamins, it’s a waste of time. Or, Vitamins are waste of money.
This way of describing supplements, of making a supplemental pill synonymous with a molecule or a chemical that is to be to the body what oil and gasoline is to a car trivializes the absolutely vital nature of the chemicals of life, which is what the word vitamin really means (amines are a type of chemical structure and vita means life). When you understand that vitamins are the chemicals of life, it becomes obvious how saying things l like: “Using vitamins is a waste of time”, or asking “should I take vitamin supplements” is really silly.

Maybe we need a new word for vitamin. How about “life-force-molecules”? Would anyone say: using extra “life-force-molecules” is a waste of money? Or taking extra “life-force-molecules” is a waste of time? Or “life-force-molecules“ in a pill is a waste?
“Life-force-molecules” is an apt description for these substances that are the key essential (and essentially magical) molecules that play such an important role in making sure we can move our limbs, and beat our hearts, and pump our lungs, and detoxify our blood, or clear out our bowels. These are all functions of the human body, and they are all dependent on “life-force-molecules”, on the chemistry of life, on what we call vitamins. Why would you NOT take supplemental “life-force-molecules” that are available in a capsule, or in a drink, or in a tablet form? How the heck can anyone think that using these things supplementally are a waste of time or a waste of money? When you understand that what we call vitamins are the molecules that channel the life force throughout our bodies, how can you not want to saturate your body, drench your tissues and cells with these elements. ideally from quality food, or if they’re not available in foods in high enough quantities, (and typically they’re not) by supplementing your foods with the Beyond Tangy Tangerine, the Ultimate Daily, and the Mighty 90. And can anyone say that using these things is a waste of time or money once they understand that these things are the carriers of the life force, they are the amines of life, and the chemicals of life.

Now, as far as the specifics of these really flawed studies, here’s my thoughts: First of all there’s the subject of adherence to the program. In the first of the two studies reported on, subjects were considered to have adhered to the program if they took their multi vitamin 2/3 of the time. In other words even if they skipped 2 or 3 days a week, they still counted as vitamin taking subjects, their results were still counted and contributed to conclusions. Is that hard to believe? It should be! Did anyone read about this in stories on Fox, CNN, New York Times? Probably not! The authors of the study actually admit as a limitation the fact that: “there was considerable non-adherence and withdrawal, thereby limiting the ability to draw conclusions…”

And it gets worse! How much nutrition actually was in these so-called high dose mult-vitamins is not mentioned in the media reports, so I did some digging. As it turns out, in the study on multi-vitamin use and heart disease, 100 i.u. of Vitamin D3 was used and a tiny amount of B-vitamins (50mg of B6, 200mg of B3 and 100mg of B1). 25,000 i.u. of Vitamin A was used, but it was partially composed of non-vitamin A compound, beta carotene. Do conclusions drawn from the effects of such scant doses of nutrients really invalidate the use of a daily multiple-vitamin? And the nutrient dose in the study on cognition was even worse. Participants were given the equivalent of a Centrum Silver vitamin. Authors of this second study even recognize, as a limitation, that “doses of vitamins may have been too low”.

In both studies, conclusions were drawn based on patient’s reports of the supplements that they took and dependent on memory and recollection. They were not based on scientific measurements but rather on questionnaires. Does anyone out there believe that questionnaires constitute the rigorous standards mandated by science and the scientific method? Again, did anyone read this in the media articles screaming that scientists have” proven” that multi vitamins are a waste of time?

And how exactly did these studies measure whether the supplements worked. What were the criteria that researchers used to assess efficacy and determine whether indeed using supplements are a waste of time. Well, in the first study, authors determined that a 25 percent reduction would be a required to determine that multi-vitamins were effective. In other words if there was a 24 percent reduction in cardiovascular risk according to the researcher, vitamins would be a waste of time. Now do you think that if a drug could reduce your risk of a heart attack by 24 percent that it could be consider wasteful. On the contrary it would be considered a miracle!

You want more reasons not to pay attention to these ridiculous studies and conclusions. Ok, how’s this: subjects in the multi-vitamin taking group had a higher rate of diabetes, one of the greatest risk factors there is for heart disease, than subjects in the placebo group. In other words, the deck was stacked towards disease in the multi vitamin group and towards health in the placebo. And this is supposed to be an objective study!
And finally how about all the other studies that have been done that show the importance and health relevance of taking even a paltry, bare bone minimum, multi-vitamin when it comes to health improvement? How about the Physicians Health Study that found that a multi vitamin was associated with 12 percent reduction in overall cancer incidence after 11.2 years? The same study found a 39 percent reduction in fatal heart attack risk. How about the supplementation in Vitamins and Mineral Antioxidant study that found a 31 percent reduction in total cancer incidence in men who took a daily multi vitamin. Another study published in the Journal of American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition in Feb 1995 showed that postmenopausal women who took vitamin B6 and B2 reduced their risk of colorectal cancer.

Long story short, the bottom line folks is these things are not optional, they are the opposite of optional, which is what the word essential means. Without vitamins B, C, D, E and K, and without 60 minerals, and without the 2 essential fatty acids, and without 10 or 11 essential amino acids, you cannot have a full, long, vital, healthy, disease free life. period! That is not opinion, that is fact. The appearance of disease and degeneration in response to the lack of these substances which are EASILY available through the Youngevity products, through the Mighty 90, through what is called a multi-vitamin, is one of the great tragedies of our modern lifestyle. To have medical professionals, and supposed scientists, and the media, and other sources we should be able to trust, spew out hostility and venom and perpetuate misleading mendacious lies about the importance these things is as unconscionable, as it is unfair.

Now keep in mind here, neither I nor any other responsible nutritionist is making a claim that a multi-vitamin is going to “cure” heart disease and make you smarter or more glib, but that doesn’t matter. Nutrients, the components of a multi-vitamin pill are a must-have; they are not optional, they are essential. What does that mean? Simply this: without the molecules that we call nutrients, the human body cannot do what it needs to do to stay alive, period! Without the essential nutrients that are found in a multi- vitamin, bodily diseases are inevitable. That means, for example, without Vitamin C, blood vessels will degenerate, gums will swell and bleed, and joints will become inflamed and painful. Without Vitamin B1, confusion will ensue, focusing will become difficult, and hallucinations and delusions are likely. Without Vitamin B3, the digestive tract will begin to break down, painful chronic diarrhea is ultimately possible, rashes and “unexplained” dermatitis will develop. Without Vitamin D, bones are likely to soften and dissolve, and without Vitamin K, hemorrhaging and internal bleeding are real possibilities.

You want more? OK, without Vitamin B6, you can expect cardiomyopathy (heart disease) and Alzheimer’s disease and without Vitamin A, depressed immunity, skin disease, defective night vision, and ultimately blindness are all likely. Still not convinced as to the vital nature of these nutritional elements? How’s this: without zinc you can count on the development of severe acne, without selenium, heart muscle will degenerate and without magnesium, blood sugar defects, osteoporosis and hypertension are likely to ensue
Will taking a multiple vitamin on a daily basis guarantee that none of those unfortunate outcomes will occur? Probably not. But that’s doesn’t matter. The point is simply this: The essential vitamins and minerals that you’ll find in a multi vitamin are the basic, bare-bones minimum that the human body needs to do its work.

Nutrients are not drugs. Nutrients are not medicine. Their effects are gentle and sustained, and unless frankly, all out deficiencies are present the results of supplementation are subtle. But that does not make them un-valuable, and they are certainly not a waste of money. Nutrients are nourishing and they are nothing more (and nothing less) than the raw materials that your body needs to do its work. They are the body’s equivalent of fuel for your car. To make the claim that nutrient supplements are a waste of money because compromised patients that took them didn’t get significantly healthier is like saying gasoline is a waste of money because your old junked out, beat-up, 1969 Ford Pinto with no oil in its engine and no coolant in its radiator didn’t run better even though it’s tank was filled with gasoline.

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Nutrition

Enzyme Nutrition

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

In his classic work on the therapeutic use of digestive enzymes “Enzyme Nutrition”, Dr. Edward Howell, wrote that food processing and reduced intake of plant enzymes is one of the major causes of enzyme deficiency and ultimately of chronic degenerative diseases.

Enzyme Nutrition
Enzymes, substances that speed up the rate of chemical reactions in living systems (including the human body), come in two varieties. The first affect foods, and increase the reactivity rate of digestive chemistry, and are called appropriately enough, digestive. The second, those that affect the rate of all other chemical reactions, including healing, growth, repair, cancer-fighting, immune boosting, and ant-aging are called metabolic enzymes. In addition to being found in all living beings, so-called digestive enzymes are also found in foods themselves. Unfortunately, these food enzymes are delicate and ephemeral and unable to survive the intense processing of the modern industrially produced modern foods. Doctor Howell believed that by eating these kinds of foods Americans were killing themselves with their diet. He said that when digestive enzymes were missing from foods, the body’s precious allotment of metabolic enzymes was used up for the digestive process, thereby causing their depletion and ultimately shortening life.

Whether or not that is the case, the fact cannot be disputed that food enzymes found in foods can make a substantial contribution to the digestive process. Enzymes in vegetables, as well as meat and dairy and eggs, can allow food to self-digest or predigest even before it’s blasted with digestive tract enzymes. However, because of the delicate nature of these enzymatic substances, they are typically unable to withstand the rigors of ordinary cooking and processing.

This makes the dietary use of uncooked and unprocessed foods very important. Certainly, light and quick cooking can be helpful. It can make foods safer in the case of bacteria and other pathogens, and steaming or slighting roasting can help released nutrients, but the fact remains; cooking destroys enzymes.

Dr. Howell also came up with a concept he called the “food enzyme stomach”. He noticed that many animals have their food pass multiple stomachs and that in many cases the initial stomachs don’t have their own enzymes, but rather are a holding area where enzymes in the foods themselves can in essence self-digest their food. This makes them easier to process and help support the animals digestive enzymes breakdown foods. Giraffes, yaks, and many farm animals (scientifically classified as “ruminants”) have four stomachs, the first three of which are enzyme-less. Other examples in the animal kingdom include the three stomach’s of cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) and the pre-stomach-like “crop” in birds.

According to Dr. Howell, human beings also have a version of a food enzyme stomach even though, unlike ruminants, quite obviously don’t have four. Rather, human beings have one stomach that is divided into 4 sections. The first part is where food enters into the stomach from the esophagus, the “cardiac stomach”, so called because it’s located just beneath the heart. This section like the initial stomachs of ruminants, birds and cetaceans produces no enzyme secretions. According to Doctor Howell it is the equivalent of a food enzyme stomach. That means that like the fore-stomachs of various animal species, the cardiac stomach is an ideal setting for the enzymes in raw vegetables and in minimally cooked meat and fish to do their predigestion work on food, so that when it progresses into the latter areas of the stomach and the intestine the digestive process has already begun.

Thus the importance of eating slowly and ingesting smaller bites and portions of food. By reducing the speed and the amount of substances that enter into the alimentary tract and the enzyme secreting areas of the digestive tract, food stuffs can spend more time in the cardiac stomach holding area, where they can be pre-processed, i.e; self-digested, prior to their contacting the body’s enzyme juices. The end result of such pre-digestion is a more efficient utilization of comestibles, a reduction in the formation of toxins and potentially allergenic unprocessed food, and much improved nutrient availability.

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Nutrition

Iodine an Essential Nutrient for the Thyroid

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

Get ready aficionados of iodine! In the same way that vitamin D caught the supplementing world by storm in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, the 53rd element is poised to become the latest darling of the world of nutrition.

Although we’ve known about the purple mineral (the term “iodine” is derived from the Greek word for violet)) for over 200 years and iodine’s importance as an essential element has been recognized since the late 19th century, it’s only been in the last few years that the iodine’s astounding versatility and significance has become apparent. Perhaps its because of the crippled Japanese nuclear plant at Fukushima (according to experts using iodine can provide protection from radiation) or maybe it’s the seeming epidemic of hypothyroidism (even the nutritionally ignorant are aware of iodine’s relationship to thyroid health), but for whatever reason more and more people are becoming aware of the significance and health relevance of this important mineral.

Iodine an Essential Nutrient for the ThyroidAlthough full blown deficiencies are rare, iodine, which even lay people recognize as being an essential nutrient for the thyroid, is becoming more and more scarce in the American diet. According to Dr. Laura Pizzorno, writing in the journal Longevity Medicine Review, iodine intake in the United States has been decreasing since the 1970’s and much of the US population may be deficient. Dr. Pizzorno blames changes in American dietary habits and reduced intake of iodized salt, and even mentions discrepancies in label claims on salt containers and the condiment’s actual content.

With the exception of seafood, iodine is not found in great abundance in many foods and many iodine experts believe that we could all use more of the stuff than we’re getting, and that medical professionals recommend. The RDA for iodine is around 150 mcg but according to Doctor David Brownstein, writing in his classic go-to reference source “Iodine, Why You Need It and Why You Can’t Live Without It”, we should probably be getting a 12.5 mg day, nearly 100 times the government recommended dose. And given iodine’s multi-functionality and non-toxicity, it’s hard to argue his point.

In addition to being protective against radiation toxicity such as the kind being spewed out by the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant and its critical importance for thyroid and thyroid hormone effectiveness, iodine plays a key role in the development of the fetal and infant brain. Around the world iodine deficiency is a leading cause of mental retardation in infants. And according to a British study of 1040 pregnant moms, who were iodine deficient, had children with lower IQs and reading levels.

And there’s more—although most folks could tell you that iodine is important for the thyroid gland, it hardly recognizes that other hormone secreting glandular structures need it too. It can be helpful for the adrenals and the pancreas. And, according to Dr. David Howenstine, iodine supplementation “resolves nearly every case of breast cysts”. Dr. Howenstine writes that iodine can heal ovarian and skin cysts too (20 percent of the body’s iodine stores are in the skin and one of the signs of iodine deficiency is dry skin). Muscles may benefit, ie: muscular pain and fibromyalgia are associated with iodine deficiency.

The most commonly used iodine supplement is Lugol’s solution which is a blend of two forms of iodine combined with potassium. This formulation is available in a tablet form as well. Some researchers believe that absorption of the liquid or tablet forms of these blended iodines may not be efficient. They recommend another type of iodine called “Nascent Iodine” which is an electrically active form that has been separated from other elements (e.g. potassium), and from other iodine atoms as well. The net result of this electrification is a little piece of free element that can be called “atomic” iodine. Nascent or “atomic” iodine is more easily recognized and usable by the body than other forms and thus its superior absorption and utilization.

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Nutrition

Vitamin A Part 2

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

Athletes take note:  Vitamin A can improve performance and provide tremendous benefits because it helps increase protein synthesis from muscle cells.  This means Vitamin A is one of the most important nutritional supplements for weight lifters and body builder and anyone interested in improving athletic performance.  And you don’t have to be pumping iron or running a marathon to benefit; the increased protein synthesis cans also improve vitality and energy and day to day strength for sedentary couch potatoes too.

Vitamin A Part 2

By Martin Doege (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons

Perhaps the most well-known role for vitamin A involves vision.  Some of the Vitamin A you ingest ends up in your eyes where it acts to turn light into our reality (!).  In other words, if you think see the world through rose colored glasses think again.  You actually observe the world through lenses made up of (partially, at least) of Vitamin A! From a historical perspective, the most significant sign of a lack of Vitamin A was night blindness, which can which can ultimately result in total blindness.  This was noted as early as 3500 years ago by ancient Chinese and Egyptian physicians used Vitamin A-rich fish liver oil as a treatment and cure.  The health of the cornea also depends on Vitamin A and deficiencies can lead to swelling, inflammation and ultimately ulceration and blindness.

It’s also important for the immune system.  While most people think of Vitamin Cwhen it comes to warding off colds and supporting the body’s defenses, as it turns out Vitamin A plays even more significant anti-pathogenic, anti-toxin role.  In addition to having an enhancing effect on specific antibodies, the workhorses of immunity, Vitamin A upregulates the body’s non-specific, general resistance to infection.  Dr. Robert Atkins, of Atkins Diet fame recommended taking extremely high doses (up 100,000 i.u., 50 times RDA) to be taken (along with Vitamin C and Zinc) at the first sign of a cold.

Finally, no discussion on Vitamin A would be complete without mentioning its non-essential cosmetic properties.  Topical Vitamin A is one of the most important and powerful anti-wrinkle ingredients you could every use.  The same connective tissue and protein stimulating properties you can get from eating or supplementing with Vitamin A can be targeted to the skin by directly applying the stuff.  It’s so effective at driving protein and collagen synthesis that it’s regulated by the FDA as a drug.  The brand name for this prescription Vitamin A cream as most people know is Retin-A and it contains just .01 to 1 percent retinoic acid (the most potent form of Vitamin A)  and that’s all you need to use just a few times a week to have noticeably smoother, healthier and younger looking skin.

Worldwide, Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) is considered a serious problem by the World Health organization.  Because of its growth stimulating properties, children are especially susceptible to the negative health impacts of VAD. According to the World Health Organization, deficiencies in Vitamin A affect nearly 250 million preschoolers; it’s the leading cause of preventable blindness in children and it increases the risk of disease and death from serious infections. In addition to visual problems some of the indicators of VAD include dry eyes, skin conditions including acne and dermatitis and decreased resistance to infections and chronic colds and respiratory conditions.

Luckily, while Vitamin A deficiency is relatively common in undeveloped countries, in the United States and Europe full blown deficiencies are rare. Yet, it’s safe to say, most people could benefit from extra Vitamin A taken as a nutritional supplement. This critical nutrient is important for bone and eye health, the immune and reproductive systems and it helps keep skin looking soft, supple, and blemish-free. It acts synergistically with thyroid hormone and helps the body use protein and iron more efficiently. If you’re deficient in Zinc or if you have problems absorbing fats, you’re probably not getting the benefits you need from this versatile and very important vitamin.

Vegetarians and vegans are especially at risk for Vitamin A deficiency which is only found in animal products. Eggs, beef organ meats and dairy are nature’s richest sources of Vitamin A and especially high concentrations are found in liver and kidney.  Non-meat eaters (as well as carnivores that want make sure they’re getting enough) may want to consider supplementation with 20,000 international units a day.  The RDA for Vitamin A is a paltry 5000 i.u., but daily doses as high as 50,000 iu have been used for short periods of time for treating acne and heavy menstrual bleeding.  In one study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology in 1993,la whopping 300,000 iu daily dose was used to suppress the formation of tumors in lung cancer patients.

While Vitamin A is only found in animal products, many fruits and vegetables do produce a “phyto” version of this important nutritional molecule.  It’s called beta carotene and can be obtained via dark green leafy vegetables as well as red and orange fruits veggies like cantaloupe, carrots, pumpkins and squash and sweet potatoes.  Kale and turnip greens are particularly good source of beta carotene which is essentially 2 molecular chunks of Vitamin A stuck together to form what can be considered pre-vitamin A.   Beta carotene conversion to Vitamin A requires enzymes and effective biochemistry and depending on the health of the individual this may or may not occur.

Last, but most certainly not least, Vitamin A absorption requires bile and that means you want your gall bladder, and hundreds of thousands of patients lose theirs every year.  Liver disease, which affects 30 percent of Americans, can mess up the body’s ability to process Vitamin A too.  Pretty much anything that impairs fat absorption, including pancreatic insufficiency, small intestine inflammation and lymphatic congestion, can have a negative impact on the body’s ability to process and utilize vitamin A from foods and even supplements. If you suspect any issues with fat malabsorbtion or you are sans gall bladder, you might want to think about taking a vitamin A supplement and eating vitamin A rich foods with fat absorption aids such as lecithin, digestive enzymes, pancreatic enzymes, bile salts, probiotics and apple cider vinegar.

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Nutrition

Omega-3 Supplements

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

A couple of weeks ago in a study that was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) and plastered all over the internet and the mainstream media,  investigators found that that was correlation between prostate cancer and high levels of an essential fatty acid derivative  called DHA.

Here’s my take:

Omega-3 SupplementsFats are like women, they’re complicated!  Highly complicated!   Thus, to make sense of the nonsense associated with the incendiary headlines like: “Fish oil supplements linked to prostate cancer” (Health News) and “Men who take omega-3 supplements at 71 percent higher risk of prostate cancer” (NY Daily News) or “Omega-3 supplements may trigger prostate cancer” (Nursing Times) we have to digress slightly and talk about fats and fatty acid supplements.

In the world of nutrition there’s different kinds fats (technically called “lipids”), classes of fats you might say.  For example there are plant lipids like beta carotene and bioflavonoids, which are nutritional terms most people have heard of, and you’ll find fat soluble compounds like phytoestrogens and resins in vegetation as well as the fatty vitamins D, E,A and K.

Then there the fatty acids.  There’s a bunch of them but two stand out in importance.  And the reason they stand out is because they are “essential”.    That means that along with amino acids and vitamins and minerals, these two very special types of acid made out of fat must be ingested on a regular basis at the risk of facing significant health challenges including the biggies: heart disease and cancer .  They’re called essential fatty acids, we know them as Omega-3 and Omega-6 and by definition, they are absolute requirements in the human diet.  You’re dead in the water without them and heading in the direction and degeneration and disease to the degree you’re deficient.  Your brain is especially dependent on them as is the blood and circulatory system.  Every single cell in the body contains appreciable amounts of EFAs, mostly omega-6s, except for the nervous system and the eyes which contain large amount of the omega-3 variety and their derivatives.

In the JAMA article what was noticed was a relationship between high blood levels of a specific breakdown product of Omega-3 called DHA and the incidence of prostate cancer.  Now DHA is vital stuff.   It’s an especially important part of the brain and eyes.   In fact, right now, as you read this article, light from the page you’re looking at is hitting your eyes and activating the DHA embedded in the eye cell membranes, which in turn is causing chemical reactions that create the visual experience in your brain.  The world we see is literally constructed out of DHA (at least partially) right now.

But here’s the catch:  DHA is very active.  What makes it so potent is its very activity.  In the world of nutrition, activity is always associated with instability and from a health perspective instability is not necessarily a good thing.  This is why oils are so problematic.  They’re volatile and fragile.  Remember we said fats are complicated.  You need them but you have to be careful!   This combination of instability and potency must be accounted for with balancing and protecting nutrients.  In other words, you don’t want to ingest high levels of one fat with corresponding balancing FATS and balancing NUTRIENTS.   For example you don’t want to be using Vitamin A without Vitamin D.  And Vitamin E should to be stabilized with selenium, alpha lipoic acid Vitamin C.   And when it comes to Omega 3 and omega 6 essential fatty acids EFAs, they need to be taken together and they need to be balanced with each other.   Most nutritionists recommend 3 parts Omega-6 fatty acids for every one part Omega-3 fatty acids.  And, all EFAs should always be taken with protective 400 i.u of Vitamin E.   In the case of DHA, Omega-6s, Vitamin E and A and selenium all work together to shield this sensitive and vulnerable nutritional lipid.  In the JAMA study, the only parameter that was measured was DHA levels.  Were these patients using Vitamin E, selenium?  We don’t know.  How about Vitamin A and alpha lipoic acid?  Again, we don’t know.    How about balancing Omega 6’s and Omega 3’s?  Once again, we don’t know.   And, without this information, any causal conclusions drawn between this important fish oil component and development cancer must be considered dubious at best.

The most significant flaw the JAMA study was the fact that investigators examined patients who already had cancer!   And, some of the men had a family history of prostate cancer, a known risk factor for carcinogenesis.  This was a population of men who were prostate cancer cases waiting to happen.  We don’t know if the existing cancer caused elevations in DHA or if it was that the DHA that resulted in the cancer.  Or if there’s any correlation at all.   In other words, the two factors (high plasma DHA and prostate cancer) may be completely UN-related.

Even worse, the tests were one-time-only each patient and measured only the blood plasma content of DHA.  Plasma levels fluctuate and vary.  A fish sandwich eaten an hour prior to a blood test would cause an elevated DHA score even if a patient had never eaten seafood or ingested fish oil before or since.  That means that elevated DHA measurements merely provided a one-time picture of what was in the body, temporarily, at the moment the blood was drawn and in no way indicative of how much DHA a person was getting and storing!   Of course, no one thought to check what these patients were eating, when they were eating it or what kind and how much DHA or fish oil supplements they were using.  In fact, despite the alarming headlines no one knows if they were even using fish oil supplements at all!

Finally, a quick internet search will reveal numerous studies that associate fish oil and DHA with a decreased risk of cancer.  In one for example, from Tuscia University in Italy, researchers concluded that:  “DHA can exert antitumor activity” and can function as “an effective adjuvant in cancer chemotherapy”.   In another study from the University of California at Davis researchers showed that “omega-3 dietary fatty acids (fish oil) reduce the risk of…cancers” although “the mechanisms by which these omega-3 lipids inhibit… (tumor formation)…are poorly understood”.  And in yet another study, published in the International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Pathology in January of this year investigators found that “DHA inhibited (cancer) cell migration, a marker of metastasis and that stated that  “DHA, a ω-3 fatty acid, could play a beneficial inhibition of the incidence and progress of a series of human including cancer (italics mine)”.

The bottom line and incontrovertible, undeniable fact remains that Omega-3 fatty acids are essential.  That means they’re required for health and survival.  There are NOT optional.  And, while their instability and thus their potential for becoming degraded and perhaps unhealthy is  equally undeniable, given their  must-have nature, that simply means they must used with great care, with balancing nutrients and with as little heat and processing as possible.  And any studies that suggest avoiding these vital substances need to be examined closely and in my opinion, with skepticism.

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Nutrition

Vitamin A

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

While all nutrients play important and unique roles, in the world of nutrition one vitamin stands out like a diamond among ordinary gemstones.  In a nutritional world of betas this stuff is truly vitamin version of an alpha male.  In fact, it’s actually called Vitamin Alpha or more simply, as most people refer to it, as Vitamin A.

Actually there’s really no such thing as Vitamin A.  Instead, the term is an umbrella designation for a family of compounds called retinoids that are found through the plant and animal kingdoms.  These ubiquitous chemical structures exist in a variety of forms and perform multiple functions in a healthy biological system.The three most common forms of retinoids are called retinyl palmitate, retinol and retinoic acid.

Vitamin A Alpha
Perhaps the most important retinoid role involves the division of parent cells and the development of resultant offspring, so-called “daughter cells”. These processes, known as mitosis and differentiation are the most important of cellular events.Mitosis involves a cell splitting in two and forming a parent and an offspring.  Via this process one cell, made up of the combined female egg cell and male sperm cell (it’s called a zygote from the Greek word for combined) turns into the 100 trillion cells or so of the human body.  Obviously, the division is critical to formation of an animal body and this most fundamental of all biological phenomena is initiated and regulated by Vitamin A.

Differentiation is even more critical.  Once a cell it divides it may need to shape up, so to speak.  Daughter cells have to develop to become mature liver, muscle, bone, heart or “whatever”cells.  They have to shape up and take on a certain form.  Offspring lung cells have to mature to do the things that a parent lung cells can do and the same is true for heart cells or muscle or bone cells any other cells that divide. This maturation processes is what is called differentiation and it is a sophisticated affair that requires a tightly choreographed chemistry, and biological precision.And, much like the maturation of human being from baby to teenager to adult, the process is fraught with danger.  Anytime a system is growing and maturing and developing it reaches critical points where its survival is threatened. These tumultuous juncture points can be a matter of life or death for any system including a cell.  Fortunately nature has provided support to sustain the cell in its stressful differentiation periods…it’s called nutrition!  In fact one of the most important roles for nutrients is to assure healthy differentiation and of the entire support nutrient the most important bar none, the most powerful maturation nutrient is none other than the biochemical family known as Vitamin A.

Under conditions of vitamin A deficiency cell division is accelerated and cell differentiation is suppressed.  The net result is the production of lots of un-differentiated.,immature cells.   This can show up as various health issues ranging from to asthma to cancer to birth defects to skin conditions like psoriasis and acne all of which involve the appearance of large numbers of rapidly dividing immature cells that can muck up ordinarily organized chemistry.  In all these conditions relatively high doses of Vitamin A (we’ll get to those in a moment) can provide effective therapeutic treatment.

Vitamin A plays another important role in the biochemical play of life.  It turns on the production of meat.  Not the kind of meat you get at McDonalds, but rather the kind of meat of that makes up the mass of the body.  Technically the meat is called collagen and connective tissue and muscle protein and it gets pumped out cells called fibroblasts when commanded to do so by the alpha vitamin, Vitamin A.  Breakdowns in connective tissue are behind degenerative disease and that means Vitamin A can be used to help prevent diverse and distinct disorders including osteoporosis, heart disease, aneurysms and circulatory issues.  It can accelerate the healing of tissue after surgery or burns or wounds or other physical trauma. It can reduce the development of fine lines and wrinkle saggy skin and plain old regular aging.   And, it’s not just sick or old folks that benefit from the body building benefits Vitamin A.  Kids need it too. The most important sign of Vitamin A deficiency in children which 100 million kids worldwide is suboptimal growth and development.  Without enough Vitamin A children will stop growing and eventually die. [Vitamin A Part 2]

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Nutrition

Understanding Unsaturated & Saturated Fat

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

The most misunderstood and maligned nutrient is undoubtedly fat. Those three letters that are responsible for so much misery and marketing spell out the most powerful and energetically dense of all the macro and micro nutrients human beings and animals consume.

There are two main classes of food fats, which are sometimes referred to as “lipids” : saturated fats which are solid (think lard) and unsaturated fats which are liquid (think corn oil). Liquid oil, i.e. unsaturated fats can contain important components called EFAs and this makes them very, very important. Deficiencies in EFAs are associated with a myriad of health problems including skin issues, degenerative disease, impaired mental health and heart pathology name just a few. Because of the important role unsaturated lipids play in keeping the body strong and healthy, for most part nutrition-mined folks have rationally focused on getting enough those important fats while marginalizing, completely ignoring the significance of their saturated biochemical cousins.

Saturated FatUntil recently that is. In the past couple of years one the most important and functional, (not to mention tasty) of the saturated fats has been getting quite a bit of attention. Coconut Oil for many years vilified and verboten, a heavy, artery clogging, and cholesterol raising generally unhealthy fat, as it turns is not so bad after all. In fact there actually a lot to love about coconut oil!

Another three letters should come to mind when you think about coconut oil: M.C.T. . Coconut Oil is one of nature’s richest sources of MCT. MCT stands for medium chain triglycerides and it is very good stuff. And, coconut oil is 2 thirds MCT, which means in every teaspoonful you’re going to get 3 grams of MCT oil.

So why should you care about MCTs? Two words: weight loss! Well actually there are a lot of things MCTs are good for, they suppress your appetite you can use them for energy really quickly. They’re very satisfying and you’ll find yourself eating less food, and you’ll have more energy to do stuff.

Body builders love MCTs because they go right into the blood, for use they don’t need to be processed before they can be used. As opposed to the long chain fatty acids that comprise most of our dietary fats, MCTs are relatively inert; they don’t really affect digestive chemistry. That’s important, especially if the digestive system is stresses or impaired. MCT’s don’t require bile. For those sans gall bladder, a teaspoonful or two of coconut oil can be a very tasty way to make sure they’re getting fats. We used them alot in the pharmacy when I worked at University Hospital which was a regional center for digestive system health issues. Burt best of all, MCTs don’t get stored like other fats, they’re used! Which makes them an ideal source of fat nutrition for dieters.

And coconut oil has non MCT related features that make it so darn loveable! Most especially it tastes great. Roast some veggie in it and not only do you get stable oil with a high smoke point, and nutritional value, but you get all that in great tasting oil!

You can use coconut oil topically as a moisturizer or hair conditioner, it’s vitamin E content can protect skin and moisturize skin and hair protective and if you mix it up with a little honey or stevia and some fruit flavoring it has some great adult “entertainment” benefits too (use your imagination here!).

If you have a favorite way to use coconut oil I love to know about it. Please fell free to share it in the comments below.

Nutiva Certified Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil

One 54-ounce jar of pure-white, USDA-certified-organic, extra-virgin coconut oil, cold-pressed from fresh coconuts within two hours of chopping; light true-coconut taste, aroma.

Nutiva Certified Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil – 54 fl oz

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Nutrition

Selenium: Super Mineral

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

SeleniumAny lingering doubt about the importance of nutritional supplementation should be dispelled by a recent article in the FASEB (Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology) Journal. In the research, published online, scientists discovered that deficiencies in the mineral selenium imitated a highly sophisticated cascade of biochemical changes that protected essential reactions that depended on this important nutrient at the expense of reactions that are considered non-essential.

Even more significantly, according to Dr. Joyce McCann, Associate Staff Scientist in the Nutrition and Metabolism Center at Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute and a co-author of the study, deficiencies in selenium resulted in genetic changes that shared characteristics of age related diseases including cancer, heart disease, and loss of immune or brain function. While toxic at high levels, small amounts of selenium perform many critical functions in the body and even the low RDA levels are hard to obtain from diets which contain high amounts of processed and refined foods.

As Gerald Weismann M.D., Editor in Chief of the FASEB Journal succinctly stated: “This research should settle any debate about the importance of taking a good, complete multivitamin every day”.

Selenium is a strong antioxidant which is thought to protect us against the ravages of free radicals. Added source of Bilberry Extract, Aloe Vera, Copper, Chromium, Vanadium and Zinc.
Sources: University of Arizona study Double Blind “Gold Standard” U.S. Department of Agriculture & University of Brussels

The FDA authorized the following health claims submitted by the company and Dr. Wallach: Selenium may reduce the risk of certain cancers.

Selenium may inhibit Hashimoto’s disease, in which the body’s own thyroid cells are attacked as alien. A reduction of 21% on TPO antibodies is reported with the dietary intake of 0.2 mg of selenium.

Increased dietary selenium reduces the effects of mercury toxicity, although it is effective only at low to modest doses of mercury. Evidence suggests that the molecular mechanisms of mercury toxicity includes the irreversible inhibition of selenoenzymes that are required to prevent and reverse oxidative damage in brain and endocrine tissues. An antioxidant, selenoneine, which is derived from selenium and has been found to be present in the blood of bluefin tuna, is the subject of scientific research regarding its possible roles in inflammatory and chronic diseases, methylmercury detoxification, and oxidative damages.

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Nutrition

Top Ten Foods For Protection From Estrogen

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

Number 1) Cruciferous vegetables. Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, bok choy and Brussels sprouts.  If I was a woman I’d be doing cruciferous veggies on a daily basis.  The one knock and the cruciferous veggies is their affect on the thyroid.  Some folks who are dealing with thyroid health issues may find that raw. Cruciferous veggies may have a negative effect on the thyroid.  If you slightly stem your veggies, for most folks that should take care of the problem.

Estrogen FoodsNumber 2) Citrus lemons, limes, grapefruits, oranges.  Chemical in these fruits called flavanoids have some tremendous anti estrogenic affects, especially when it comes to cancer protection.  Especially for female cancer like breast and uterine cancer.   Their tasty cheap and readily available and like the cruciferous veggies, there’s no reason not to be enjoying them on a daily basis.

Number 3) Onion and Garlic.  Like the citrus fruits these versatile veggies are loaded with estrogen protecting flavanoids, especially something called Quercetin.   They support liver health and can boost the immune system too.  They work well in combination with other flavanoids so use onions and garlic with the cruciferous veggies and citrus fruits for a nice immune boosting anti estrogenic salad or soup.

Number 4) Raw nuts and seeds both of which are sources of something called sterols which have protective affects against estrogen and may help promote production of estrogens opposing hormones progesterone.  Sterols can also support testosterone production in men and if you’re a guy and you’re starting to notice that you’re going to the bathroom more than once or twice in them idle of the nite, sterols may be a way to protect yourself from prostate enlargement.  Make sure your using raw nuts and seeds not the kind that are roasted or otherwise processed as these kinds of techniques can  reduce their nutritional value and even produce harmful compounds.

Number 5) Olives are also a good source of sterols that can have beneficial effects on estrogen and may help lower blood cholesterol too.  Olives are a good source of Vitamin E which has anti estrogenic properties.

Number 6) Turmeric, which is the active ingredient in curry.  Turmeric is one of the most medicinally herbs/ spices you could ever use and if you’re dealing with any estrogen issues or you want to protect yourself from cancer you’d be wise to use curry on everything.

Number 7) Fish and seafood which are sources of special compounds called DHA and EPA which have wonderful anti-inflammatory benefits that can offset the pro inflammatory affects of estrogen.  These compounds can also balance out the pro-inflammatory and pro-estrogenic compounds in most grain and cooking oils.  Get ion the Ultimate EFA which is a good source of the protective essential fatty acids.

Number 8) Green leafy veggies are a source of b-vitamin and chlorophyll both of which can help balance our estrogen.  In addition some green leafys like spinach is a source of powerful detoxification substances that help the body process excessive amounts of xenoestrogen.

Number 9) Seaweeds and algaes as mentioned previously are powerfully ant estrogenic.  These kinds of foods are very undervalues in Western cooking although in Japan they’ve been using seaweed as a source of nourishment for millennia.  I like to get the dry seaweed and use it like croutons to add a crunch to salads.  Sometimes I’ll soak my  seaweed in water with a bunch of garlic and onion powder and sea salt and use it as a bed underneath grilled  fish or squid.

Number 10) Fermented foods like kefir, sauerkraut and borsht all have estrogenic properties.  The bacteria that give these types of foods their bite can help process estrogen and can provide digestive benefits too.

Estrogens or Oestrogens, are a group of compounds named for their importance in both menstrual and estrous reproductive cycles. They are the primary female sex hormones. Natural estrogens are steroid hormones, while some synthetic ones are non-steroidal. The name comes from the Greek οἶστρος (oistros), literally meaning “gadfly” but figuratively sexual passion or desire, and the suffix -gen, meaning “producer of”.
From Wikipedia

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Nutrition

Mineral of the Day: Magnesium

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

MagnesiumMagnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the human body. This miracle mineral plays an integral role in over 300 different chemical reactions in the body.

Yet according to government statistics published in 2005, 68% of Americans do not consume even RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) levels and 19% of Americans don’t get even half of the government’s recommended daily intake of magnesium.

Cardiovascular health and blood sugar health is dependent on this important mineral.

Taking 1 or 2 grams at bedtime can be very relaxing and higher doses (10 grams or so) can function as a laxative.

Magnesium is found in chlorophyll-containing foods. Halibut and almonds are also good food sources. Some of the better supplemental forms of magnesium are magnesium glycinate, magnesium aspartate. It’s a good idea to try to take at least 1500-2000 mg of magnesium a day.

Magnesium is a chemical element with the symbol Mg and atomic number 12. Its common oxidation number is +2. It is an alkaline earth metal and the eighth most abundant element in the Earth’s crust and ninth in the known universe as a whole. Magnesium is the fourth most common element in the Earth as a whole (behind iron, oxygen and silicon), making up 13% of the planet’s mass and a large fraction of the planet’s mantle. The relative abundance of magnesium is related to the fact that it easily builds up in supernova stars from a sequential addition of three helium nuclei to carbon (which in turn is made from three helium nuclei). Due to magnesium ion’s high solubility in water, it is the third most abundant element dissolved in seawater.

The free element (metal) is not found naturally on Earth, as it is highly reactive (though once produced, it is coated in a thin layer of oxide (see passivation), which partly masks this reactivity). The free metal burns with a characteristic brilliant white light, making it a useful ingredient in flares. The metal is now mainly obtained by electrolysis of magnesium salts obtained from brine. Commercially, the chief use for the metal is as an alloying agent to make aluminium-magnesium alloys, sometimes called magnalium or magnelium. Since magnesium is less dense than aluminium, these alloys are prized for their relative lightness and strength. [From Wikipedia]

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Nutrition

Omega-6 EFAs

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

The Borage flower contains high levels of essential fatty acids. The second essential fatty acid is generally known as Omega-6 and like its aforementioned cousin Omega-3, supplementation is critical. While Omega-6 EFAs are found in many commonly used food oils, such as corn, soy, sunflower and safflower, production that occurs at manufacturing and food processing levels as well as simple cooking in restaurant and homes depletes most of them of this vitally important nutrient.

Omega 6 EFAs Borago flower
This makes supplementing diet with Omega-6 oils an important part of a good nutritional program. The best nutritional sources of Omega 6 oils include evening primrose oil, borage oil, and black currant seed oil. Omega-6 fats are associated with lowering the incidences of various common health ailments including diabetic nerve pain, rheumatoid arthritis, attention deficit disorder, eczema and menstrual and menopausal symptomology.

Most nutritionists recommend taking Omega 6 and Omega 3 EFAs in proportion with each other in a 2:1 to 4:1 range. The so-called “Mediterranean Diet”, which is associated with good health and longevity, is noted for its optimum Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio.


Borage (Borago officinalis), also known as a starflower, is an annual herb. It is native to the Mediterranean region and has naturalized in many other locales. It grows satisfactorily in gardens in the UK climate, remaining in the garden from year to year by self-seeding. The leaves are edible and the plant is grown in gardens for that purpose in some parts of Europe. The plant is also commercially cultivated for borage seed oil extracted from its seeds. [From Wikipedia]

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Nutrition

Ben’s Favorite Vitamin: Cyanocobalamin

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

Ben’s Favorite Vitamin: CyanocobalaminOne of my favorite vitamins is cyanocobalamin. I am particularly fond of this nutrient, which is better known as Vitamin B-12 (it’s actually a member B-12 family of vitamins) for 2 reasons. First of all it’s the only purple vitamin. That’s because each molecule of B-12 contains atomic cobalt which contributes its violet color.

Secondly, Vitamin B-12 packs an enormous punch. Even in the nanogram quantities this completely non-toxic nutrient is required in, Vitamin B-12 supports a wide range of biological functions involving the nervous system and has been uses for decades in intravenous form as an energizing nutrient and anti-depressant. It also plays a critical role in the health of blood cells and the circulatory system.

Vitamin B-12 deficiencies are common due to a lack of a protein called “intrinsic factor” (IF) which under normal conditions is secreted from the stomach. Elderly folks are especially prone to diminished IF and the ensuing B-12 deficiencies are one of the hallmark symptoms of old age. Vegetarians may also have a problem getting Vitamin B-12 as the only non-animal sources of this critical nutrient are nutritional yeast and fortified foods. While algaes contain Vitamin B-12, there is some controversy as to how much of it is available for human nutritional needs.

I recommend that everyone gets at least 500 mcg of oral B-12 daily. If you suspect malabsorbtion due to a shortage of IF you can use sublingual (under the tongue) or intranasal Vitamin B-12 preparations, which bypass the digestive system entirely and go right in the blood stream.

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Nutrition

Peanuts & Peanut Butter

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

The PeanutThere is no food that speaks to the American childhood experience more clearly than the peanut, the source of that quintessential piece of culinary Americana, peanut butter. Peanuts were originally cultivated in South America by Peruvian Indians who are considered to be the first indigenous groups to domesticate the legume and archaeologists have traced the original specimens to around 5000 BC. From South America the Spanish brought the humble bean to Europe and to their colonies and outposts in what is today the south eastern part of the United States.

Peanuts really caught on during the civil war because they considered to be good, cheap protein. Farmers in the South had pretty much depleted their land of vital nutrients over farming cotton the lowly peanut had come to the rescue as an alternative crop. During and after the civil they ended up in the Northern states where they were sold, freshly roasted by street vendors in NYC and Boston and Philadelphia and a new American love affair was born.

Farming peanuts was a limited and labor intensive affair until the industrial revolution began to change agriculture around the turn of the 20th century. Right around that time George Washington Carver was developing all kinds of stuff from the peanut. All told, Carver, who was the head of the agricultural department at Tuskegee Institute, developed 300 different products with the peanut including various types of soaps and cleansers and milk and even ink! The reason Carver could make so many things out of the peanut is because there are so many incredible chemical active compounds in the plain old peanut.

Their complex nature is also is why peanuts can be such a problem food. In addition to the potentially thyroid suppressing compounds in peanuts, along with grains, dairy, and eggs are one of the most important of all food allergens. While peanut allergies are not as pervasive as as significant as dairy or grain the affect up to 6 million Americans and they be potentially life threatening. I remember when I was a pharmacy student working at an asthma hospital, a kid got an injection that was made with peanut oil and had an allergic reaction that was so severe it killed him. Peanuts can also be source of a toxic mold called aflatoxin that’s been associated with cancer. And unfortunately, peanuts are also a source of really problematic compounds called lectins that trigger various immune and autoimmune reactions.

One of the more common yet underappreciated reactions to peanuts involves the skin. For some sensitive folks, dermatitis can occur by simply by touching or breathing in peanut dust. And ingestion of peanuts has been linked to acne in susceptible children and teenagers.

If you’re looking for concentrated nutrients however, and you’re not concerned with allergic reactions, you’d be wise to add a handful or two of peanuts to a meal a couple of times a week. You can also throw some into a smoothie to enhance its nutritional value. Peanuts are a good source of protein and vitamins, including hard to find vitamin E (one ounce of peanuts contains 29% of the Reference Daily Intake level) as well as minerals like copper, phosphorous, magnesium, iron, potassium, selenium, zinc and calcium. All told, a couple of tablespoonfuls of peanuts contains nearly half of the 13 vitamins necessary for the body’s growth and maintenance and more than one third of the 20 minerals needed! Peanuts are even a good source of resveratrol; one ounce contains approximately 73 mg. A naturally occurring plant compound resveratrol intake is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease and increased longevity.

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Nutrition

Coconut Oil and the Miracle Lipid that Burns Fat

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

One of my favorite nutritional supplements are medium chain triglycerides. Generally referred to as MCT oil, this largely unrecognized supplement imparts numerous benefits. MCT oil was first introduced almost 60 years ago as a tool for treating lipid disorders. MCTs are metabolized without bile and go directly to the liver where they are processed into a source of fuel. Thus they provide a good source of easily metabolized energy for patients with liver disease, gall bladder issues, those with bile deficiencies and other health compromised patients.

Coconut OilThey’re so effective that they’re the fuel of choice for hospitalized patients being fed intravenously in intensive care units. And MCTs may provide circulatory benefits too. A 2008 study published in The American Journal of Physiology found that MCT intake in rats with high blood pressure improved their cardiac function and structure.

Perhaps the most significant role MCTs provide for good health is in the realm of weight loss. Diet conscious health enthusiasts can benefit from MCTs unique metabolic chemistry in three ways. First of all, MCTs provide drive lipid biochemistry with 10 per cent fewer calories than ordinary fat. Secondly, MCTs are rapidly converted into energy. This means that they are much more likely than other fats to be uses as a source of fuel, rather than being stored. In this manner they function more like carbohydrates than fats. Yet, in contrast to carbs, they have no significant effect on insulin. This makes them an ideal source of energy for diabetics. Thirdly, unlike ordinary lipids, MCTs have been shown to increase thermogenesis (fat burning), which may result in an actual loss of calories.

In addition to providing weight reduction benefits, MCT oils have neurological enhancing properties. The fascinating fats been shown to increase the production of “ketones” which may provide benefits for senescent brains. Ketones are known as a potent and stable non-sugar source of energy to the brain. This makes MCT oils an ideal alternative brain fuel source for elderly and neurologically impaired patients, as well as diabetics (who are a much higher risk of age-related cognitive impairment), all of whom must be wary of the deleterious effects of sugar.

These unusual lipids have also been shown to increase the phospholipid levels in the brain which may provide additional cognitive benefits. And, interestingly, a 2009 study from the University of Toronto Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology found that supplementation with medium chain triglycerides improved the cognitive function in dogs and increased the level of omega-3 s in the parietal lobe of the brain, the section associated with the mental decline seen in human patients afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease.

Perhaps the most important food source of MCT oils is coconut oil. Besides being a wonderful ingredient for cooking, over half of the fats in this tasty oil are MCTs. If being used for its MCT content, a typical daily dose of coconut oil would be 2-4 tablespoons a day. Diabetics or Alzheimer’s patients can may want to take twice that much.

Occasionally, some patients find that coconut oil causes some stomach distress. Thus, when starting a coconut oil regimen, it’s probably best to start off using ½ to 1 tablespoonful a day and gradually work yourself up to a final 2-8 tablespoonful daily dose. Sometimes digestive discomfort from coconut oil can be alleviated by taking it with food. Other sources of MCTs include butter and palm kernel oil. Pure MCT oil is also readily available as a nutritional supplement in health food stores.

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Nutrition