In the last newsletter, I went through the basics of calcium
nutrition, absorption and life style. This month, I’m going to look at calcium supplements. To
recap - Children 4-8 require 800 mg. per day (elemental calcium). For ages
9-18 it jumps to 1300 mg. a day. Men and women from 19-50 need about 1,000
mg. of calcium daily and after the age of 50 it jumps to 1,200 mg.
It is best to get your calcium from food as it may be up to 8.79 times
more available to the body. We also need adequate protein, weight bearing
exercise and a diet that avoids soda, sugar and white bread, among other things
you might enjoy. It isn’t easy to get all the calcium we need in
a day, so many of us, including myself need supplements. So what should
In my experience, I had read or heard and
believed that calcium citrate was the way to go as it is
the most readily absorbed. I needed a ratio of 2:1
calcium/magnesium. So I went out and bought 750 mg.
capsules with 500mg. of calcium to 250mg. of magnesium. I
was taking two a day at night close to eating and I thought
I was all set.
I was wrong. My biggest mistake is
that I didn’t read the label and my 500 mg. of calcium
citrate only has 100mg. of “elemental calcium”. That
means I need to take 8 capsules a day if my diet is providing
at least what I think it is. So I’m not sure
that calcium citrate is the best option for me. I
don’t do well taking anything more than 2x a day.
Before I get to the different types of
calcium, a couple of important points to note:
Do not take calcium supplements if you
have kidney stones or a history of kidney stones.
Don’t go cheap, go reliable. A
lot of resources point out that some refined calcium carbonate
products (sources include oyster shell, bone-meal and dolomite)
may have lead. You need to be sure that the company
you buy from is reputable and screens for lead and other
Make sure that your calcium supplement
dissolves – calcium is known to have difficulty breaking
down. Simply put it in a ½ cup of vinegar and
swirl it every once in a while for a ½ hour. Your
tablet/capsule should be 100% dissolved by then, with no
little clumps left. In general, capsules are usually
a better choice for calcium supplements.
It is vital to keep in mind that just adding
calcium to your diet does not necessarily mean that it will
improve bone density. Your body requires other vitamins
and minerals, most importantly vitamin D. According
to Holistic Primary Care (Summer 2005), there are 25 different
trials showing that without vitamin D no form of calcium
is well absorbed. As you know most of us can get enough
vitamin D by spending 15 minutes in the sun without sunscreen
or supplement with 400-600 IU’s a day.
One final note before I get to types of
calcium. Most experts agree that the body can not absorb
very much calcium at one time. Spread out your intake
throughout the day (500 mg. intervals max), and if it’s
calcium carbonate, take it with food. (I certainly
wasted a lot of money on calcium!)
Most of the discussion about calcium supplements
is about the source – mostly calcium carbonate vs.
calcium citrate and then there was the big excitement for
a while about coral calcium. There is nothing that
I came across that substantiated that coral calcium was superior
in anyway and certainly not worth the price. It is
a form of calcium carbonate.
Here’s the pros and cons of the two:
Calcium carbonate contains TWICE as much
elemental calcium (40%) as calcium citrate BUT calcium carbonate
can be harder to digest/absorb. It requires hydrochloric
acid from the stomach. Therefore, it should be taken
with meals and may not be the best source for elderly people
who do not produce enough hydrochloric acid. It is
also more likely to cause constipation and bloating
Calcium citrate is much easier to absorb
as it is water soluble BUT contains just 20% elemental calcium. You
really need to take a lot of it. Calcium citrate can
be taken with or without food but it may be better taken
One study quoted in Holistic Primary Care
said that a combination of calcium citrate and calcium carbonate,
taken on an empty stomach with vitamin D provides the best
overall absorption. I kind of like this idea…
And what about magnesium?
Yes, it is also important for absorption
and the 2:1 ratio I was taking is correct (not as vital as
vitamin D). There is conflicting opinion about whether
the two taken together compete for absorption in the body. A
couple of sources say that you should take your magnesium
at a different time. The sources I have come to trust
over the years do not mention this, so I’m coming down
on the side that taking them together is fine.
Here are some other tips I found helpful:
- Calcium does interfere with the absorption
of iron, so do take them separately.
- Take Vitamin C with calcium as it also
helps with absorption.
- Vitamin K is important in calcium regulation
(leafy green vegetables) as well as B6, folic acid, zinc,
boron, and essential fatty acids.
- Antacids are not a good source of calcium
because they neutralize stomach acid that is needed to
I’m now going to switch to a combination
of Citrate and Carbonate and see how I fare. I will
try and find one with the magnesium already in there and
I think I get enough vitamin D. I’m good for
two times a day and for the middle of the day, I’m
going to sneak one of those dark chocolate balls with 500mg.
of calcium! There ya go.
For such a simple element, what a complicated story! Here
The human skeleton has 206 bones. (who
knew?) Basically speaking, bones are made up of two types
of material that are known as “organic” and “inorganic”. The
organic material is primarily collagen (90%) and other proteins
(10%) that keep bones flexible. The inorganic material
consists of calcium, phosphorus, sodium and other minerals
that keep bones strong and resistant to damage. There
is also the soft bone marrow inside where most of the blood
cells that flow through our body are made. We know
them as “stem cells”.
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the human body --
our teeth and bones account for 99% of the body's calcium.
The remaining 1% of calcium is found in our body fluids and
blood. There are five other macrominerals in the body --
they are magnesium, sodium, chloride, potassium, and sulfur.
All six macrominerals account for 4 - 5 % of total body weight
-- ½ of which comes from calcium.
Bone production is a dynamic system; our bones are constantly
being broken down and built up in a process called remodeling. Calcium
plays a critical role in this process. Further, our
bones act like a reservoir for calcium as it is continually
taken from the bones and used for other functions in the
body such as regulating heart beat, clotting the blood, regulating
thyroid function, hormone secretion and nerve function.
If not enough calcium is being absorbed or is being used
for these other functions, our bones become deficient.
When you hear or read “daily recommended requirement”,
the government is referring to “elemental” calcium. When
you buy a supplement, the amount of “elemental” calcium
should be listed on the package as it is the law. It
is NOT the calcium source. As an example, if a capsule
contains 1000 mg. of Calcium Citrate, the amount of “elemental” calcium
is only 200mg. You are correct in assuming that you
need to take 5000 mg. of Calcium Citrate in order to get
1000 mg. of “daily required” elemental calcium
available to you. Referring to the two most popular
forms of calcium supplements -- calcium carbonate and calcium
citrate, calcium carbonate contains 40% of elemental calcium
while calcium citrate contains 20% of elemental calcium. That
does not mean you should necessarily run out and just buy
calcium carbonate. I’ll get to that. (next month)
Children 4-8 need 800 mg. per day. (elemental calcium) Ages
9-18 it jumps to 1300 mg. a day. Men and women from 19-50
need about 1,000 mg. of calcium daily and 1,200 mg. after
the age of 50.
Absorption and Age
Calcium absorption is highest during infancy when it is about
60%. In young children, it is about 28%. During early puberty
and the time of rapid growth, it increases to about 34%
and then drops to 25% two years later where it remains
for several years. Calcium absorption does decline with
aging. In postmenopausal women and in men around the same
age it declines 0.21% yearly on average. Calcium
absorption may be critically impaired after the age of
I think it is safe to assume that the
daily recommended dose that is suggested by the government
has taken age into consideration. It doesn’t
seem we need to adjust for this.
Absorption and Nutrition
The best analogy I came across is to think of bone health/calcium
absorption as if you were building a house. In order
for the house to become inhabitable, you need all the parts
to the house. It doesn’t help you much if you
just keep buying more wood, even if your house is 80% wood. For
calcium absorption and bone health, it’s similar. Just
adding more elemental calcium is not the way to go. Calcium
needs other nutrients to support bone health and production – specifically
Vitamins D, B6, B12, C and K. It also needs magnesium,
zinc, boron, folic acid, essential fatty acids and protein.
It appears that vitamin D and magnesium have the most direct
affect on how much calcium is stored in the bones.
Calcium is 8.79 times more bioavailable
from food than it is from any supplement. Considering
that supplements can be complicated to absorb, this is an
important point to keep in mind. There are health writers
that love or hate dairy, yet all agree that the best place
to get your calcium is from food. Like it or not, diary
contains the highest amounts calcium. Luckily, it’s
the low fat/skim kind topping the list. The highest
calcium food I saw was low fat yogurt, 8 oz. at 415 mg. of
calcium. This is followed by skim milk with 306 mg.
of calcium. For comparison, whole milk yogurt has 275
mg. of calcium.
For those of you who are lactose intolerant,
don’t worry. Other calcium rich foods are dark leafy
greens like spinach, kale, mustard greens all around 200-300mg.
per cup, many seeds and nuts (about 100 mg per ¼ cup),
legumes like black eye peas (around 200 per cup) In my opinion,
the best non-dairy food to eat is soy beans. Not only
are they high in calcium (260 mg. per cup) but they also
contains other compounds such as isoflavones and genistein
that are both protective and bone building. The best
protein sources are sardines (yuk) and salmon (yum). But
back to my house analogy, the more healthy food you consume,
especially fruits and vegetables, the better off you are.
It’s not just the calcium. As an example, studies
have found that bones may benefit more from vitamin D than
calcium as vitamin D is vital to transfer calcium to the
bones. So if I were to walk you through the array of foods
that not only contain calcium but other important vitamins
and minerals that play a role in creating strong healthy
dynamic bones, you would see just about every fruit, vegetables,
nut, beans, good protein, etc. The one food you won’t
see are foods that are high in phytates – like wheat
bran. Of course nothing is easy -- as legumes are high in
phytates but are also high in magnesium and contain some
calcium which is good for our bones. Personally, I
wouldn’t get too hung up on it. Just eat well.
Other Lifestyle Issues
Calcium absorption is another reason to avoid white sugar,
colas, alcohol and caffein in excess and too much animal
protein. Protein is essential for bone health but
in excess can suck calcium out of our bones. Bone
health is another reason to exercise. Weight baring
exercise is vital – when muscles work harder bones
become stronger. Finally reduction of stress and
good rest plays an important role – stress
produces cortisol which decreases calcium absorption.
If you are like me and work out and try
to eat healthy, we still may not be getting enough calcium. I
don’t think that I get enough. So in the next
newsletter, I’ll tackle supplements and try to cut
through some of the popular beliefs that may or may not be
the best approach.
Kris Wetherbee, “Build Your Best Bones” Herbs
for Health, February 2006 page 51
Janer Gulland, “Clearing up Confusion about Calcium” Holistic
Primary Care Summer 2005, page 1
PMS AND CALCIUM + VITAMIN D
Let me explain this study a little bit that has been going
on in two parts since 1976. It's called "The Nurses Study" and was originally designed
to look at look term use of oral contraceptives. The first part of the
study began with women aged 30-55 in 1976, the second half of the study began
in 1989 and with a younger target population of 25-42. Each study has
over 100,000 women that participate and respond to questionnaires approximately
every two years. In addition to contraception and hormone use, the study
also looks at diet and lifestyle risk factors. What's interesting about
this study is that it is an epidemiological study - meaning that it looks at
correlations in the populations, not necessarily causations. If you remember
back 10 years or so, it was thought that hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
was beneficial to heart health, dementia and bone density. These initial
conclusions came out of this Nurses Health Study. It was only after a
double blind study was done later by the Women's Health Initiative (WHI), that
we found out that only bone density benefits from hormone replacement therapy
and in fact is hurtful to heart health and raises the risk of dementia. It
turned out that women on HRT evaluated in the earlier "Nurses Study" were
also women who most likely more educated, lead more healthy lifestyles and
thus improved heart health. It wasn't the HRT.
The Nurses Study is still ongoing and various
data is still collected and reported on from that study.
As in this case, companies also sponsor some of the research
to see if there is any information that will support their
products. Mostly pharmaceutical companies, they
say they don't have any input into the analysis or the results
(most likely true), however, it isn't unusual for an employee
to co-author an article about it. Glaxo Smith Kline
makes a calcium supplement and a person from their company
co-authored this study.
I'm certainly not negating the importance
of this data, as it can point science in the right direction
- I just say, in general, let's not view it as conclusive.
I like this correlation about PMS - because
even if it's not true, the benefits of calcium in the diet
of women has other proven benefits (bone health, potential
weight loss, prevent kidney stones and improve blood pressure),
and as far as I know, if it's taken in quantities that are
reasonable, calcium proposes no health risk.
This study did not look at the entire 100,000
or so population, but a subset of about 3000 women (from
the part II) who at baseline had no PMS in 1991. 1,057 women
developed PMS over 10 years of follow-up and 1,968 reported
no PMS. Intake of calcium and Vitamin D was measured
in 1991, 1995 and 1999 by a food questionnaire. Women
had to express at least one emotional symptom, as well as
one physical symptom to be considered having PMS. The
idea was to look at diet to see if it could prevent PMS. Too
few of the women took supplements to show an effect, so this
is based on dietary intake only.
Volunteers who got the most calcium in
their diet (1283 mg/day) decreased their chances of getting
PMS by 30%, and 40% for Vitamin D (400 international units/day)
- I didn't see anything about if the two together make a
bigger difference, since the presence of Vitamin D increases
helps the body absorb calcium. (so does the presence
1,200 milligrams of calcium and 400 milligrams
of Vitamin D consist of about four servings of skim milk. Whole
milk, because of it's fat content, did not offer any benefit,
according to the author of the study.
My 2 cents? I'm all for it, but I
don't believe it's "the answer". Women under
30 need to get more calcium anyway - as it's crucial for
our bones later on in life and most of us are way under the
1500 mg. or so that we need. I think it helps, but
there are other factors that also play an equally if not
more important role. These would be exercise, overall
body weight and eating fruits and vegetables. I also
don't think that if you have PMS, you will see a noticeable
enough difference by just adding calcium. And here
comes the shameless plug for Oöna PMS1 - if you
have PMS and you take Oöna PMS1 consistently for
two cycles, you will notice quite a difference.
As for the calcium supplements I like -
I get plenty of Vitamin D in my multi so I take 1500 mg.
of calcium per day with magnesium at a 2:1 ratio. (example:
500 mg. of calcium to 250 mg. of magnesium) I make
sure it's in a capsule, not a tablet, as calcium is known
to have trouble breaking up in the digestive track. I'm
not sure how much of it I absorb, but I do eat low fat yogurt
and other greens very rich in calcium, so I know I get at
least another 500mg. or so.
About the Nurses Study:
TWO TAKES ON A JAMA PUBLISHED VITAMIN
The Women's Health Study (WHS) is the largest, long term randomized, double blind
study that evaluated the risks and benefits on low-dose aspirin and vitamin E
in reducing cardiovascular disease and cancer in women. The results are
interesting for Vitamin E. The study was conducted between 1992 and 2004
and 1/3 of close to 40,000 women 45 years old or older took 600 IU of a natural
Vitamin E every other day. (1/3 were placebo and 1/3 low-dose aspirin) The
study was to evaluate prevention of heart disease only.
It was found that Vitamin E did not significantly
effect any major cardiovascular event such as stroke or heart
attack. There was also no significant effect on breast,
lung or colon cancers.
However, women taking vitamin E saw a reduction
of death by cardiovascular disease by 24%. There also appears
to be a benefit for women that are 65 years old and older
- a 49% decrease in the risk of cardiovascular death and
a 34% reduction in heart attacks. There was no benefit
for strokes in this group.
What is interesting about this is that
if you just look at the headlines you wouldn't think there
was any benefit for vitamin E and heart health whatsoever.
I do think it is clear that there is no vitamin E benefit
for women's cancers whatsoever. Even though mortality
prevention was not a focus, it certain deserves attention
as the numbers are significant. It may be, like I mentioned
above, that these women lead more overall healthy lifestyles
- but this was a double blind study. In any case, the
benefit is significant and we should also consider the fact
that women over the age of 65 are the group with the highest
risk and comprise 58% of the U.S. elderly population.
FOR THE LITTLE ONE
in the tummy. It’s been my experience that most MD’s are not as up
to date as they could on the nutrition end of things. Maybe your doctor
is fabulous and I just overstepped myself here, but it’s simply not my
experience. I haven’t eaten fish since I got pregnant -- mostly because
I can’t remember which ones are okay – I know that tuna is out for
mercury, salmon is out for PCB’s, is Halibut or Striped Bass okay? I
can’t remember – I always say that I’ll print out a list, but
I forget. The party line is that one can of tuna a week is fine, but I’m
not doing that. What if my can got more mercury that the “average”?
We are talking about a heavy metal and a fetus. Besides, for the first trimester – I
couldn’t stand the smell/sight of fish.
So what’s the deal here…There
are two types of Essential Fatty Acids -- omega-3 and omega-6.
(they are called “Essential” because the body
can not manufacture them itself) Most Americans get
plenty of Omega 6 – which is in just about all the
vegetable oil that we consume – like safflower and
corn. (I’m not talking any bad fats here – they
are HARMFUL) For optimum health, the key is to balance
Omega 6’s to Omega 3’s at a ratio of 1:4. Omega
-3’s are mostly found in fish oils and flax seed. Fish
oil contains EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA docosahexaenoic
acid). Most fish oil supplements are 18% EPA and 12% DHA,
or a total of 30% omega-3.
A lot of people have heard of the benefits
of Omega 3’s and the role they play in heart health
and skin health but I want to focus here on the “little
one”. (my step father calls her “Catchatory”,
as in Chicken)
Fats make up sixty percent of the brain
and the nerves that run every system in the body. And
your brain sends chemical messengers throughout the body,
telling each organ what to do. Prostaglandins are a
hormone-like substance that are a very important part of
these chemical messengers. It is essential fatty acids
that produce prostaglandins. This all stands to reason
that good fats = good brain health and development.
Why Omega 3’s are so key is that
when the body is deprived of the essential fatty acids that
they need to grow – the cells develop a fatty acid
that may actually be harmful. These acids have been
found to be elevated in those that suffer from depression
or ADD. It’s generally a result of too much hydrogenated
fats or omega-6 fats –adding omega-3 actually reduce
the effects of bad fats or too much omega-6.
The most rapid brain growth occurs during the first year
of life, with an infant’s brain tripling in size by
their first birthday. During this time period the
brain will consume 60% of the energy ingested by the infant. Again,
it makes sense that getting the right kind of fat greatly
affects brain development – and if mother’s
milk is any indication – consider that 50% of the calories
of mother’s milk is fat.
There are some new studies that back all
of this up – one that was published in Jan. 2005 of
Pediatric Research. This was an animal study, not a
clinical one, but one that showed interesting relationships
between DHA and brain development. Another had to
do with vision – Omega 3’s are also associated
with good eye development and neural development – this
was published in September 2004 in the Journal of Nutrition.
But the logic is enough for me. I
take 200mg. a day of both DHA and Omega 3. I like and
trust Nordic Naturals – they make ones that are “deodorized” so
I don’t get the back lash from others I’ve tried.
She has no excuse now not to be the genius
she’s expected to be! (yes, I’m kidding).
For more info:
FOLIC ACID IS LIKE EXERCISE
Only because it’s going to be on every “Top 10” list to improve
your health. Personally, I’m a big fan, I’ve been taking a
prenatal vitamin now for about 5 years or so, just for the high amount of folic
acid. If it’s 1mg. (1000 mcg.) or more, it must be a prescription. I
could have supplemented with folic acid on top of a multi – but fewer the
bottles, the better. (Don’t go above 2,000 mcg. – 5,000-10,000
mcg. is dangerous) We know the benefits for women who are trying to get pregnant
and women who are pregnant (prevents birth defects of the brain and spine), and
we know that it’s a nutrient for the heart as it lowers homocysteine levels.
High levels of homocysteine impair blood pressure. It may also help people
who suffer from depression as people who are depressed have high homocysteine
levels as well. Now JAMA has confirmed that in women, folic acid cuts the
risk of high blood pressure – although it’s only data from a large
observational study. In other words, there hasn’t been a double
blind control study yet.
There were two large groups looked at,
both from the Nurses’Health Study. A total of
150,000 women one group was aged 26 to 46 (“Younger
Women”) and the other 43 to 70 (“Older Women”).
Bottom line – the “Younger
Women” who took 1,000 mcg. a day had a 46% reduction
in risk compared to the same age group who took 200 mcg.
a day. Taking 800mcg. (mircrograms) of folate a day,
reduces the risk 29%. For “Older Women” who
took more than 1,000 mcg. a day the reduction in risk was
18% -- at 800 mcg. a day the reduction in risk was13%. (also
compared to those less taking than 200 mcg. a day) Between
200 and 800mcg. there was some extra benefit, but not enough
to report for either group.
No one is sure why younger women benefit
so much more than older women but it could be that younger
women develop hypertension for different reasons.
So start taking it now! (Doctors/Researchers
are not recommending this, but I am!) The reason this is
so important is that hypertention is the “silent killer”,
meaning that it strikes without symptoms.
Foods rich in folate include Citrus fruits and fruit juices,
leafy green vegetables, beans, asparagus, peanuts, wheat
germ, sunflower seeds and there are breakfast cereals and
breads that are “fortified” or “enriched” with
ABOUT THE VITAMIN E CONTROVERSY
It was all over the place in November
(I had other, more
important WOMEN issues to talk about then) Vitamin E in high
doses could cause death. All the media picked it up, and in
my humble opinion, this is a perfect example of really bad
reporting. Just for the record, I certainly don't defend irresponsible
companies of the industry and I do understand the frustration
of consumers who feel the need to question the quality of
what they are buying in supplements. However, it's no excuse
for bad reporting about such a valuable vitamin such as E.
According to supplementinfo.org, about 18% of elderly people
may stop taking vitamin E because of this report, and that's
really a shame. http://www.supplementinfo.org/contentman/anmviewer.asp?a=188&z=6
The study was presented be Dr. Edgar Miller
in the Annals of Internal Medicine and looked at 19 different
research projects that included approximately 135,000 people
that included vitamin E use. The studies included vitamin
E as a potential treatment for, or prevention of diseases
such as heart disease, Alzheimer's and cataracts. In order
to be included in Miller's study, the patients needed to be
taking vitamin E for at least one year, and each study had
to have at least ten deaths during or after the time of the
The conclusion of the authors was that lower
doses of vitamin E may be slightly protective, but that higher
doses may slightly increase the patients risk of death and
that vitamin E used in high doses is dangerous. I admit it
sounds scary, but if you look closer it's simply not the truth.
As many editorials and letters have pointed out (I like the
about.com the best, see the link below) here's blanks that
were not filled in.
- The populations
studied were old people with chronic diseases and were also
on pharmaceutical drugs. It is common knowledge to health
care professionals that Vitamin E is a blood thinner --
interactions with pharmaceuticals were not explored.
- Miller does point out that this population
may not equate to younger or healthier populations but that
- The study didn't take into consideration
the different dosages and protocols of the 19 studies.
- There is a difference between natural
and synthetic Vitamin E. This distinction was not made.
- Even with all these issues, the study
claims that the relative risk is 1.05 - when 1.0 is neutral.
Any one of the above reasons could account for such a low
increase in risk.
It's obvious that to call high dosages (over
400 I.U.) dangerous is premature. At issue for me is that
if one takes natural Vitamin E (only take the natural) there
are very beneficial Tocotrienols that are very difficult to
find in food
for us women, they are very beneficial
for breast health and bone health. (the synthetic E does not
have these tocotrienols) Without getting too technical, here's
what to keep in mind:
- Vitamin E is a complicated one as it
exists in eight different forms. It is a powerful antioxidant
and there is lots of evidence (not necessarily proof)
of its benefits.
- The upper limit is established at 1500
International Units (IU's) I stick with about 400 IUs/day.
- Vitamin E does thin the blood - so if
you are taking pharmaceuticals, your health care professional
should be made aware. Also it should be stopped before surgery
so advise your doctor.
- Make sure it's Natural Vitamin E - The
synthetic form is labeled "D,L" and the natural
is labeled just "D".
For more information about all this go to:
The study can be found at http://www.annals.org
- it was published November 10th but I couldn't find it there,
I had to type in "Miller and Vitamin E" in the search
A good explanation of the different components
of Vitamin E can be found at
in their December 2004 issue - their site is down at the time
of this writing so I can't get you the link.
THE POWER OF FLAX
This small seed is certainly making a comeback. And its benefits
are far from over blown. What flax is most known for is high
amounts of Omega 3's as well as a good source of Omega 6's.
It also contains the most soluable and insoluble fiber - ¼
cup seeds (then ground) will provide all the fiber you need
in a day. (25-30 grams, most Americans get 8 or 9 grams a
day) Keeping in mind that Omega 3's can not be manufactured
by the body, flax is known to be the best plant source. While
flax has much higher Omega 3 content than fish, (1/4 cup of
flour is = 9000mg) it is argued that the Omega 3 in fish is
more easily absorbed. (I have not seen that proven but I do
know that the Omega 3 in flax needs the body to convert it).
A decent ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 is 4:1 -- most of us
have a ratio of 20:1. That is because we get plenty of Omega
6s - it's in just about everything -- cereals, eggs, poultry,
most vegetable oils, whole-grain breads, baked goods, and
margarine to name a few. So to balance it with Omega 3's takes
a some paying attention. Adding flax seed to cereal or smoothies
or on top of cottage cheese may be just the thing.
Remember that the best way to eat flax is
to grind it, or crush it - you won't get the valuable lignans
if you don't crush it. I know I didn't mention lignans - but
it is the part of flax I really wanted to talk about -- it's
difficult not to get into the important Omega 3 aspect. Lignans
are found in many plants but it appears that flax has the
highest concentration of these as well. They are phytoestrogens,
and these appear to interact in some way with estrogen receptors.
While some phytoestrogens can be "estrogen like"
others can block or the effect of more powerful estrogens.
In this way lignans have been termed "selective estrogen
receptor modulators" or SERMS - in that they appear to
be able to do both.
In all my exposure with women with breast
cancer, it does appear that the lignans in flax have protective
properties. I know breast cancer survivors who have written
books and cookbooks based on this theory, and they are passionate
about it. It has since been shown that flax may slow the spread
of breast cancer cells in laboratory animals by inhibiting
the compounds that cause metastasis - and while it's too soon
to tell if flax can reduce the risk of breast cancer in the
first place, one thing for sure is there is nothing bad about
the seed. I also think that supplementing with flax, maybe
even more so than soy foods, is a great addition to taking
Oöna -- especially to protect against those times when
stress may cause a break through flash or two. You need 3-4
grams a day to do the job. Again, just be sure to grind it
right before you eat it.
For almost everything about flax -
go to http://www.flaxcouncil.ca
it's a Canadian site with a lot of information.
MORE ON A GOOD SET OF BOWELS
Last month we took a look a the role of fiber in our diet.
There are, however many women who suffer from the opposite
problem in that they experience an irritable bowel or other
digestive issues. This is especially true as we age. There
is growing evidence that the role of probiotics can be very
helpful in the prevention and treatment of a wide range of
conditions. Probiotics are supplements that are comprised
of "friendly" gut flora and are known to restore
normal intestinal function. They have traditionally been used
following a course of antibiotics or to prevent "travelers
diarrhea". They also have a role in the management of
a number of chronic disorders that are not immediately related
like chronic fatigue, vaginitis and urinary tract infections.
If you consider that the digestive tract has the second largest
concentration of nerve endings, and 95% of all serotonin in
the body, it makes sense that poor digestion can lead to the
above mentioned issues as well as disruptive sleep and poor
The thing with probiotics is that they are
a bit complicated to buy and understand. And like most natural
therapies, they take a couple months of continuous use before
an effect is felt. However, once you've bought the right product
and are taking the correct dose (usually high at first) they
are very safe and can truly solve a lot of issues that have
plagued people for years. So in my opinion, it's worth the
effort. Here are a few key ideas to guide you - as for actual
brands you should be safe with Natren of California or Pharmax.
- THERE ARE A LOT OF STRAINS WITH BIG
NAMES SO GET A PEN
For digestive health, the most researched
are Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, Bifidobacterium lactus BB12,
L. acidophilus NAS, L. bulgaricus LB-51, B. bifidum Malyoth
strain and L. acidophilus DDS1. Vaginal issues are better
handled with L. rhamnosus GRI or L. fermentum RC14. Now
the important point here is that the product must name the
genus, species and strain. Just Lactobacillus is not specific
enough. Don't buy it -- you must be very selective as it's
been reported that 70-80 percent of the products do not
contain their claimed amount of live probiotic microorganisms.
- YOU WANT A PROBIOTIC PRODUCT THAT
This usually translates that you should look for a product
that has been freeze dried (freeze drying preserves the
supernatant)- the supernatant is the fluid growth medium
which contains the nutrients for the probiotic organisms
- it provides a natural buffer to help the beneficial bacteria
survive the gastric juices.
- DOSING AND POTENCY ARE DIFFERENT
First, you want to look for guaranteed potency through an
expiration date printed on the label - and true potency
is cited in colony-forming units or (CFU) at the time of
manufacturing and at the expiration date. It is also how
you should figure out how much to take. Generally speaking,
recolonization of the GI tract requires about 109 CFUs per
day. Treatment for irritable bowel about 1011 per day. Less
can be taken for bacterial vaginitis at 108 per day. Anything
lower is not likely to be effective. Once your gut is recolonized,
you can take this amount 2 to 3 times a week for maintenance.
- STORAGE IS IMPORTANT
The bottles should not be exposed to direct sunlight and
many believe that opaque glass is what is best. The bottle
shouldn't heat up to kill the bacteria. Second the bottles
should be moisture-free and stored in refrigeration. The
only acception is L.spirogenes which is good for "travelers
diarrhea" as it does not require refrigeration.
- YOU'LL NEED MORE THAN ONE STRAIN
FOR INTESTINAL USE
Make sure the strains are actually capable of colonizing
both the upper and lower intestines. As an example L. acidophilus
works well in the small intestine while Bifidobactieria
works well in the large intestine. It's best to colonize
- IF YOU'RE DIARY INTOLERANT CHECK
A lot of probiotics use lactose as an excipient as it can
buffer stomach acid and dissolve at the correct time.
- PASS, FOR NOW, ON THE "PREBIOTIC"
it's really not been proven. Basically a prebiotic is suppose
to provide nutrients for the probiotic organisms as they
move through the gut. The idea is they are never separated
from the food they were created on so they survive harsh
stomach conditions and don't need refrigeration. My suggestion
is to wait on that one. In other words, don't use a new
probiotic supplement unless it has documented prior safe
use in humans and has undergone toxicological tests.
FIBER IS ESSENTIAL TO YOUR HEALTH
Interesting note, while nutritionist have long proclaimed
the value of fiber in the diet, the FDA was a little behind
on this one
it was only December 2003 when the agency
allowed fiber as a health claim. Not to get graphic or anything,
but a bottom line about fiber is that it correlated to the
quality of what you are eliminating
if your are not eliminating
properly chances are this is a problem with your diet that
needs to be addressed. You should have soft and bulky stools
at the very least once a day.
Fiber is basically a component of food,
only plant food, which is not broken down by native enzymes
and secretions of the gastrointestinal tract but may be metabolized
by the bacteria in the lower gut. In other words, we humans
don't digest it. There are two types of fiber - soluble and
insoluble. The difference is soluble fiber dissolves in water.
A good way to think about this is that whole grains and fruits
with edible seeds etc is the insoluble type (we call it roughage
or bulk) while most beans, legumes barley and citrus fruits
are the soluble type. To keep it simple, the insoluble type
keeps it all moving while the water soluble fiber promotes
soft and bulky stools.
Why is this so important? It all has to
do with making sure that food keeps moving through your system
and doesn't "ferment" in your gut. Fiber maintains
a digestive transit time to an optimal length of about 12
to 18 hours - many Americans have a 72 hour or longer transit
time. This allows pathogenic organisms to grow in the intestines
and toxins to be absorbed into the body by the gut. This is
why low fiber diets are correlated with chronic illnesses
like hear disease and diabetes. It's also why high fiber diets
are considered protective. (yes, you can have too much fiber,
www.extension.umn.edu link below to see the answer to
The recommended amount of fiber (either
soluble or insoluble) is 25 grams for adult women and 38 grams
for adult men. There is also a huge side benefit to diets
high in fiber, whole grains contain 200 to 300 times more
phytochemicals (protective plant substances) than refined
grains -- add in the antioxidant and other phytochemicals
of fruits and vegetables and a whole pattern of dietary protection
emerges. So eat well. To find the fiber in any food go to
and scroll down to fiber. I also like this piece as an overall
(Sources: Taste for Life Magazine, March
2004 and Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource, June 2004)
We get a lot of questions about the differences between soy
supplements and soy foods. We always say that you should eat
soy foods because soy supplements are often stripped of other
nutrients and compounds that contribute to their health benefits.
This is also complicated by the fact that isoflavones exist
in two forms: aglycones (non-sugar form) and glycosides (sugar
form). The non sugar form is much more easily absorbed and
you should check the label that lists the aglycone forms.
The best way to take soy supplements is to take them with
soy foods - it insures that you have all the bioavailability
to absorb the supplement. For the full story go to
IRON AND FATIGUE
According to the British Medical Journal, a study shows that
non-anaemic women who experience unexplained fatigue may benefit
from iron supplementation. Fatigue is one of the top five
complaints heard from women entering menopause so it's worth
trying. In a double-blind randomized study of 138 women aged
18-55, 29% experienced a decreased level of fatigue taking
iron compared to 13% in the placebo group. For the complete
study, go to http://bmj.com/cgi/content/full/326/7399/1124?ijkey=
Note to reader: I began this section
in the newsletter in the summer when there are so many great
fruits to eat - I wanted to know what was in them and how
to vary them. The fruits are listed alphabetically. We will
keep adding them monthly and once we finish, we'll move on
to other food categories, like nuts.
LEMONS ARE ANYTHING BUT A DUD
of a fruit - so I'm not sure how "dud" cars got
that phrase. They are so incredibly useful and who doesn't
like lemonade? They have such a wide range of uses - besides
all the uses in foods, it is used as a bleach, removes odors
and prevents other fruits from turning brown after being cut
(oxidation). The oil is used in perfume, medicines and cleaning
products. We even like it on our wooden tables! (lemon Pledge)
It has a long list of disease fighting properties.
The monoterpenes in their skin help protect cells from becoming
cancerous and although it's only studied in mice, there is
reason to believe that it's helpful in humans as well. Lemons
have also been shown to help high blood pressure, insect bites,
migraine headaches, inflammation, influenza, sore throat,
asthma, heartburn, gout, diabetes, fevers, and dissolve gallstones.
It is also known for its cleansing and detoxifying abilityies.
It balances pH levels and promotes healing.
For all it's God given talents, little is
known about its origin and subsequent spread - although it
is believed to originate in northwestern India and brought
to this country by Columbus. Most of the lemons in the world
are grown in California, they produce fruit all year long
and one tree can bear as many as 3,000 annually.
The best way to get more juice out of a
lemon in to put them in hot water for 15 minutes and they
will yield nearly twoice as much juice! If you don't have
the time for that roll them back and forth on the counter
a few times for easier juicing. The best ones to chose are
those that have smooth brightly colored thinner skin with
no tinge of green. Medium to large sized lemons are generally
As for their nutritional value, while they
are very high in all sorts of phytochemicals their main benefit
is Vitamin C and a little A. They are also high in essential
- Calories 22
- Total Fat 0 grams
- Carbohydrates 12 grams
- Vitamin A 32.4 IU
- Vitamin C 83.2 mg
- Calcium 65.9 mg
- Fiber 5.1 grams
- Iron .8 mg
- Potassium 157 mg.
- Copper .3 mg.
THE COMPLICATED GRAPEFRUIT
I'm almost sorry I brought it up - but now that I've done
a little research, I feel I should share it with you. Grapefruit
is one of the later fruits to come on the scene. It was originally
believed to be a spontaneous sport of the pummelo (an exotic
large citrus fruit originated in Asia and consumed in China,
Japan, India, etc) but in 1948, citrus specialists surmised
that it was an accidental hybrid between the pummelo and the
orange. The grapefruit has made great advances in the past
75 years and heightened in the 1970's by the "grapefruit
diet" plan claimed to achieve a loss of 10 lbs (4.5 kg)
in 10 days. It is customarily consumed as a juice or a breakfast
fruit but in Australia it is commercially processed as a marmalade
or made into a jelly.
There are 10 different varieties and the
technical names are 'Duncan' for the white ones 'Foster'
for the pink flesh, 'Marsh' are seedless and 'Redblush'
are the ruby red.
The Grapefruit peel is an important source
of pectin for the preservation of other fruits. The peel oil,
expressed or distilled, is commonly employed in soft-drink
flavoring, after the removal of 50% of the monoterpenes. Grapefruit
seed oil is dark and exceedingly bitter but because it is
an unsaturated fat, its production has greatly increased since
Different parts are also used as supplements
- the pectin has been touted as an excellent source of water-soluble
fiber and is taken to support good intestinal health when
diets are fiber constricted. The seeds are ground and extracted
and apparently used for anything from yeast infections to
pet ailments to weight loss. There are web sites dedicated
to this and while it's use for yeast infections seems viable
the other uses seem far fetched.
Finally, the grapefruit is infamous for
it's interactions with antihistamines and according to a website
dedicated to grapefruit drug interactions (listed below) -
a few other medications as well. I hadn't realized that this
fruit had such an extensive rap sheet!
In any case - if you just want to sit and
enjoy a half of grapefruit, here's what you will ingest --
note that the red and pink have much higher vitamin A content:
|| 10 grams
|Vitamin A (white)
|| 10 I.U.
|Vitamin A (pink)
For more information about all this, I'll
save you the exhausting Google search
for drug interactions
for history etc.
THE PROVERBIAL APPLE
We know "An apple a day keeps the doctor away" but
here's a couple of things you may not know. Apples are most
known for being low in calories and high in fiber (5 grams
per apple). Fiber intake also has been shown to reduce intestinal
disorders and the water-soluable fiber fraction in apple pectin
has been shown to low cholesterol-lowering effects (you can
bet they are a low density food).
Did you know they were also high in potassium? The nutritional
outline looks like this:
- There are 2,500 varieties of apples
grown in the US. The taste of apples depends on many factors
- latitude, terrain, weather, and the care with which they
were grown. 15 popular varieties (you know them delicious,
jonathan, granny smith, etc.) account for 90% of US production.
- Apples are a member of the rose family.
- Americans eat 19.6 pounds or about
65 fresh apples every year, while Europeans eat about 46
pounds of apples annually.
- 25 percent of an apple's volume is
air. That is why they float.
- Apples are the second most valuable
fruit grown in the United States. Oranges are first.
- Archeologists have found evidence
that humans have been enjoying apples since lat least 6500
- Apples have 5 seeds. There are five
seed pockets, each with a seed, in an apple.
Believe it or not there are a ton more apples
facts, go to http://www.urbanext.uiuc.edu/apples/facts.html
BRING ON THE BERRIES
Blueberries. Blackberries. Strawberries. Raspberries. Don't
you love when all of a sudden the fruit section one week is
just filled with boxes of all these berries? Turns out, these
sweet, low-cal colorful delights contain a powerful nutritional
punch -- so load up the cart. (watch your wallet, they can
get expensive) Just be sure to eat them within a few days,
berries are picked ripe and rot fairly quickly.
- Berries contain fructose, which
is fruit sugar, and fiber. This combination can give you
lasting energy because the fiber helps to release the fructose
slowly into the blood stream. At 60 calories a cup, these
are great foods if you are watching calories.
- Blueberries, blackberries and raspberries
are loaded with disease-fighting phytochemicals called anthocyanins,
the dark blue and red pigments that give berries their color.
These compounds along with the combined effort of others
natural to the fruit, are reported to provide nutrients
that play a key role in repairing cells harmed by free radicals.
It is free radical damage that accumulates as we age and
appears to contribute to cancer and heart disease.
- Blueberries may play a role in reversing
age-related short term memory. They have also display some
- Each are loaded with fiber, vitamins A
and C along with minerals like calcium, magnesium and potassium.
- Strawberries contain a lot of vitamin
C and iron and are known to whiten teeth.
- Some more tips: Look for deep color, Store
them unrinsed (if you rinse, they rot even faster), frozen
are just as nutritious, dried are great but can be more
calories (you may eat more when they're smaller), skip the
WE NEED SOME SWEET CHERRIES
Cherries were my favorite fruit this season because they were
so good! I read up on it and it turns out that cherries grow
the best when the seasons are cool. (makes sense this year)
Cool seasons extend the cell division period and larger fruit
results. Hot temperatures shorten this phase, resulting in
smaller fruit. Fruit size is also determined by crop load.
Heavier crop loads result in smaller fruit. (I'll spare you
the graphs). So let's see what all the cherries did for me:
- I'm happy to hear
that in China and Japan cherry flowers are the symbols of
rebirth and youth - I'm all for keeping the fountain of
- The three types of cherries include
sweet (Prunus avium), sour (P. cerasus), and wild (P. avium).
Sweet cherries are usually large and heart-shaped. They
include the deep-burgundy colored Bing, Lambert, and Tartarian,
common in the United States. They also include the very
expensive yellow varieties, usually blushed with red, called
Royal Ann, Rainier, or Napoleon. Other sweet cherry varieties
include the Bigaroon and Gean. Sour varieties, favored for
use in pies and preserves, include the brilliant red Montmorency
and the smaller Morello
- One cup of cherries has 84 calories,
1.4 grams of protein, 19.3 carbohydrates, 1.12 grams of
fat and 2.7 grams of fiber. They also have just 2 Weight
- They are most noted as an excellent
source of vitamin C, containing about 10mg per cup and 250
mg of potassium per cup. They also provide vitamins A and
E as well as the antioxidant quercetin.
- If they have any special powers, it
may be that they contain perillyl alcohol, which is a monoterpene.
Monoterpenes have been shown to reduce certain cancers from
forming such as breast, lung, stomach, liver and skin. They
are also apparently good for gout. According to a 1950 study
of 12 people with gout, eating one-half pound (about 227g)
of cherries or drinking an equivalent amount of cherry juice
prevented attacks of gout. Black, sweet yellow, and red
sour cherries were all effective. There have been many anecdotal
reports of cherry juice as an effective treatment for the
pain and inflammation of gout. Doesn't sound like much of
a study, but hey, if you're prone to gout, it may help.(Be
sure to share this information with the men in your life
as they are more prone to gout.)
THE MAGICAL MANGO
If you can't get to the tropics, why not let the tropics come
to you ? Known as the "king of fruit" I can't think
of a better way to indulge guilt free!. This is a snack or
dessert you don't need to think twice about and wait to you
see the nutritious punch this fruit has.
- At just 100-130 calories. Mangos can provide
up to 40% of daily fiber (3-4 grams!), and they are low
- Mango's contains enzymes that help with
digestion, purifying the digestive tract and even aiding
- The mango's bright orange hue should be
a hint that this fruit is loaded with carotenoids, antioxidant
flavonoid compounds that can help protect the body from
disease 3-1/2 oz of mango contain 3,890IU of vitamin A!
- Mangos are also a good source of Vitamin
C (27 mg) Vitamin B and potassium (256 mg)
- Mangos come from the same plant family
as pistachios, cashews, poison oak and poison ivy. It is
native to India and Burma and over the years it was cultivated
to become the succulent sweet treat we now enjoy. It is
now grown in warm weather climates around the world; most
of the American mangos eaten come from Mexico, South America
or the Caribbean.
- Every part of the mango has been
utilized in folk remedies in some form or another. Whether
the bark, leaves, skin or pit; all have been used for various
types of treatments or preventatives down through the centuries.
For help on how to eat a mango, go to http://freshmangos.com/aboutmangos/index.html#d
For more information go to
To my surprise, peaches are the third most popular fruit in
the nation, behind apples and oranges. (not bananas?). The
height of the season is mid August, but the season runs from
June to September. I always anticipate that first bite into
a peach. It's so satisfying when it is sweet juicy peach and
so disappointing when it is dry and mealy. Maybe we can help
you out here, so there's more juicy ones in your cart and
less mealy ones.
- Avoid rock hard
peaches that have any green undertones. Choose peaches that
give slightly at the seam when your press with your thumb,
even if the rest of the peach is firm. Take a whiff at the
stem, you should be able to smell the sweet fragrance. And
finally look out for bruises and tan circles, and early
sign of decay.
- The good news about peaches is this:
- They are a good source of Vitamin C,
A Niacin and Potassium.
For the full complete nutrition story go to:
- The not so good news is that a large
portion of the calories come from sugars.
- Peaches originated in China and Chinese
legend says that peaches bestow immortality. They are related
to other stone fruits such as the apricot, almond, cherry
and plum. They made their way West in classical times by
Alexander the Great and the Romans.
THE FUNNY POMEGRANATE
Although this fruit has not caught on in this country, it
turns out this is a very serious food with a rich history
and folklore. It may also emerge as the next superfood. With
its abundance of seeds, the fruit has long been a symbol of
fertility, royalty, hope and abundance and extensively celebrated
throughout many cultures in art, mythology and religious texts.
Some hold that it was the pomegranate that was the fruit on
temptation leading to the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the
Garden of Eden.
Each pomegranate holds exactly 840 seeds
each surrounded by a sac of sweet-tart juice contained by
a thin skin. Many people eat the fresh fruit by chewing on
the seeds to release the juice from the sacs and then swallow
seeds and all. The seeds are considered good roughage to help
cleanse the body. Others will chew the juice from the seeds
and then spit out the seeds. Another method is to "juice"
the fruit by rolling it on a hard service and breaking the
juice sacs. When the fruit is soft, a straw can be inserted
and the juice sucked out.
Perhaps the most fascinating thing about
pomegranates is the recent research on the phytochemical profile.
According the research by A. Kader at University of California,
total antioxidants of pomegranate juice is two to three times
that of red wine or green tea. Also Israeli research published
in J Ethnopharmacol, July 1999) indicates that the polyphenols
contained in the pomegranate seed possess such potent antioxidants
that if consumed dialy over a long period of time could help
to combat cancer and may prevent hardening of the arteries.
The seeds also contain an number of flavoniods, including
isoflavones, so for women it may help with hot flashes. How
these isoflavones compare with soy, we don't know, but we
do know that its best to get isoflavones from foods. More
research is emerging, but it's safe to say that the ignored
pomegranate will not be ignored for much longer. General nutrition
information is as follows:
For more information, http://www.wholehealthmd.com/hk/articles/view/1,1471,807,00.html
That's it for this month! As always,
check out our website for lots more information at www.oonahealth.com.
In Good Health,
The Oöna Team
Questions or comments? Write firstname.lastname@example.org