Saturday, July 3, 2010

How to Choose your Weight Loss Diet

If you want to lose weight, there are many dietary approaches that work. There are many diet books out there that offer great ideas and practical step to lose weight. I really recommend you to use them, as they can help you immensely. I encourage you to critique them as a scientist, though. As you may know, there are many authors that promise quick fixes and make irrational claims. Here I give you some guidelines to filter those books and diet plans.

Avoid a diet book or diet plan if:

  1. It tells you to avoid a major food group. For example, if they’re telling you to avoid carbohydrates at all cost. I don’t even need to explain anything more about this. Read my articles about carbohydrates, protein and fats to learn why you need all of them.

  2. It claims “quick fixes”. I’m sorry to tell you the bad news, but quick fixes don’t work. If you want to lose weight and keep it down, you’ll have to work your way.

  3. It gives irrational food instructions, like you have to combine your foods, or “you can’t get this food with that food”. Your gut is a very sophisticated organ, and you can digest most food combinations. There are books out there that say “don’t eat protein and carbohydrate together, because when it gets in your gut, it putrefies and becomes rancid”. If you know anything about digestion, you know how ridiculous this is. Your body is an amazing food-processing center. Think about this, if your body couldn’t digest protein and carbohydrate together, all the country would be thin.

  4. It claims to cure diseases associated with weight loss. Anything that claims something like the “diabetes cure” or “the cholesterol cure”. These are diseases that you developed over many years, and they can’t be cured with 3 months of dieting, in most cases.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Ten Easy Ways to Cut Your Calories

Here I’ll share with you ten easy ways to cut your calories. They are very practical and easy to apply, hope you find them helpful.

1. Get the facts. Foods that seem healthy can be loaded with calories and fat, so check the nutrition facts. In terms of weight management strategies, calories rule. For example, although nuts are unbelievably healthy for you, most of its calories come from fat. A cup of nuts can be as much as 600 calories.

2. Limit sodas and alcohol. Although it is fat free, alcohol contains about 70 calories per ounce. That goes also for sweet drinks. One glass of sweet tea and one glass of soda a day contain 320 additional calories that don’t do anything for you. You can eat about 4 medium apples and you’ll get the same amount of calories. You can gain 30 pounds in a year because of those extra calories. As a rule of thumb, don’t drink your calories.

3. Switch to smaller plates. Do you have a regular-size dinner plate? What does that mean? Put your food on a smaller salad-size plate. In that way you reduce your portion sizes and save a lot of calories.

4. When you go out to eat, don’t be embarrassed to order child-size portions. We tend to eat what is front of us. If you order a big portion, that’s what you’ll eat. You won’t die if you eat a smaller one.

5. Serve in the kitchen, eat in the dinner room. If you eat in the kitchen you’ll be tempted to pick from the serving bowls in front of you. You can easily pick yourself into an entire meal.

6. Eat slowly. This is unbelievably hard for a lot of folks, including myself. Put your fork down and calm down while you chew your food.

7. Use plates. Snacking from packages is absolutely deadly. Your brain only remembers what it sees. If you decide you’re going to have a cookie, put it on a plate, sit down and enjoy it. Don’t grab the cookie out of the package.

8. Fill up with plant foods. Fruits, vegetables and whole grains take up stomach space. They take time to chew and time to eat. As a plus, they are incredibly healthy for you.

9. For every member in your family over the age of 2, switch to lower-fat dairy products. Reduced fat, low-fat or fat-free dairy products contain significantly fewer calories. That reduced fat in your milk can represent a significant change in weight over time.

10. Dull is good. I don’t mean dull as in boring, but dull as “not shiny”. When you see a salad that is shiny, it usually means that a lot of vegetable oil was added to the vegetables. You can save a lot of calories by avoiding these fats.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Weight Loss Plateau

If you lose weight on a fad diet, the probability of you keeping off that weight really isn’t very high. Between 90% and 95% of people who lose weight regain that weight later. That’s because they are looking for a quick fix. Usually when starting on a diet, you lose weight in the first week, after that you reach a weight loss plateau. Many people get discouraged at this point and abandon the diet, regaining all the lost weight. There are physiological reasons for these plateaus. If you calorie intake is too low, your body says “wait a minute, there’s not enough energy coming in”, and lowers the metabolic rate. This makes your diet increasingly less effective despite your restricted calorie intake. As you lose weight, you become more energy efficient and you require fewer calories to maintain your lower body weight.

In addition to the changes in metabolism there is a difference in fuel use. During the first few days of a diet, your body is burning its limited carbohydrate stores and some lean mass. Do you remember how many calories are there in a gram of protein and carbohydrate? Only 4 calories. So, it doesn’t take very long to burn those calories off. After you burn those carbohydrate stores, you start burning your lean mass. It takes you about three to five days to actually start burning body fat.

Why wouldn’t your body use fat first? That’s because YOUR BRAIN MUST HAVE CARBOHYDRATE. Your brain can’t use anything other than carbohydrate. Your body’s going to have to burn protein, which can be converted into carbohydrate, and it will need a time to adapt to using less carbohydrate for the central nervous system.

A weight loss plateau usually occurs about the second week. This is signaling that you are starting to burn more fat than protein. How many of us celebrate that? When the weight loss slows, it means you’re using more of your body fat as an energy source. Don’t get discouraged, celebrate. When weight loss plateaus occur, stick with it.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

7 More Weight Loss Tips

  1. Eating small frequent meals on a regular schedule can help you lose weight. However, if you don’t know what “small” means this won’t work for you. A small meal should be between 200 and 300 calories. If your “small” meals are 700 calories each, you are now eating six large meals instead of six small meals. Morning intake is much more filling than late-night eating. If you’re eating at night, are you generally having a ball of cereal or a scrambled egg? Are you having a turkey sandwich? No. We usually go for sweeter snacks later at night with many calories but with few nutrients.

  2. Your grandma was right. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Skipping breakfast can alter the way we use insulin. It can raise cholesterol and can lead to higher energy intake later on in the day. Maybe you say you don’t have much appetite in the morning, but at 3 o’clock you starve and you go for a cookie and coffee. You gotta eat your breakfast.

  3. Physical activity is essential to weight management and it promotes overall good health. Also, as a really nice side benefit, it can discourage overeating by reducing stress. It also produces positive feelings of well-being. This is because of the endorphins that are released during physical activity.

  4. If you’re just trying to maintain weight, 30 minutes of moderately intense exercise everyday is good. If you need to lose weight, you need to aim for 60 minutes per day. Create a program that includes some kind of cardio, like running or cycling. Also include some strength training and stretching.

  5. Cardio that you can sustain for about an hour can help to trim that body fat permanently. However, strength training is also important, as it can help to increase lean body mass. Lean body mass burns more calories at rest than body fat.

  6. You don’t need to do all your exercise at one time. You may go out and take a 30 minute walk in the morning and ride the bike at night. For strength training, concentrate on big muscle groups. Lift heavy enough weights for it to be a challenge.

  7. Be easy on yourself. You’re going to screw up a lot, I assure you. Don’t beat yourself up because of that. I’ve learned that perfectionism is not the best way to go to achieve your goals. You may end beating yourself up for small things. I think that a better way to live and to achieve great things is by following this standard: “It is okay if you’re not perfect, as long as you’re persistent”. Focus on the five days you DID GO to the gym, not on the two days you skipped. Whenever you don’t live up to your expectations, whenever you don’t act as your ideal self would, say to yourself: “It’ okay. You’re growing. What did you learn from this?” This takes practice, as anything.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

7 Quick Weight Loss Tips

Weight loss is quite easy, in theory. You’ve got to reduce the calories you’re taking in, and increase the calories you’re expending. Calories come from three sources: carbohydrate, protein and fat. Total energy expenditure is determined by your basal metabolic rate, the thermic effect of food and your physical activity. To learn how to calculate your basal metabolic rate and how many calories you need you may want to visit this link. Now, how do you go about losing weight? Here are 7 quick weight loss tips:

1. You should strive for a bodyweight that optimizes your health. Even though people talk about an “ideal bodyweight”, that may not be a practical goal for you. The first step is to stop weight gain. If you’ve been gaining weight on a regular fashion over the last couple of years, your main goal should be to stop that.

2. You also want to aim for metabolic fitness. Metabolic fitness means that the biochemical risk factors (high blood pressure, triglycerides, etc) improve. You can do that loosing 5% to 10% of your total bodyweight. Let’s say you’re trying to lose 10% of your bodyweight. You ideal bodyweight may be 120 and you weight 200. Even getting down to the range of 180 pounds is going to help you reduce your risk factors.

3. Focus on creating a lifestyle that includes eating healthy foods, getting exercise, thinking positively about your food choices and body image, and learning how to cope with stress (having time of rejuvenation). Most of the problems we have are lifestyle problems. If you develop a lifestyle for successful weight management during early adulthood, healthy behavior pattern are very likely to take hold. You also need to adopt behaviors you can maintain. What might work best for me isn’t what is going to work best for you.

4. Losing weight is simple: take in less calories than you burn. This is the MOST EFFECTIVE STRATEGY. Watch your portion sizes! Most of us significantly underestimate the amount of food we take in. You should also take care of the balance of foods. Crash diets don’t work! These are diets that contain minimum calories. You may set the goal of eating 500 calories daily, but you’re not going to be able to control it when the hunger kicks in. When this happens we beat ourselves up, we think there’s something wrong with us and become depressed. This is not very intelligent.

5. Fat, with 9 calories a gram, is the easiest place to reduce calorie intake. Fat is the most concentrated source of calories. Fat calories are also more readily converted to body fat than calories from protein and carbohydrate. Fat intake should be lowered to 20% to 35% of your total calories. High fat, low fiber diets tend to make us feel not very full and encourage overeating. Foods that are labeled low-fat or fat-free can actually be high in calories. Despite lowering their fat content, manufacturers often increase the sugar to make it taste good.

6. To balance your energy sources you also need to look at the carbohydrates in your diet. Between 45% and 65% of your total daily calories should come from carbohydrates. However, some people are going to do better with a reduced carbohydrate intake, those who have insulin resistance. High-sugar foods provide calories but really few nutrients.

7. Eating an all-protein or almost-all-protein diet is not going to promote optimal wellness. Aim to balance your energy sources. Focus on creating a healthy lifestyle. Diets that are high in complex carbohydrates and moderate on protein are better paths to take. Protein helps promote a sense of fullness, but be careful, because foods high in protein can also be high in fat. Protein should be in the range of about 10% to 35% of total calories.

More tips to come! Stay tuned!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Health Risks of Obesity

What are the health risks of obesity? It is now presumed that the rising rates of obesity will reverse the increases in life expectancies that we’ve seen lately. Children that are born in the year 2000 would be part of the first generation that doesn’t outlive the previous one. Obesity-related diseases are also costing the American tax-payers billions of dollars. Overweight people are 2 to 6 times more likely to develop hypertension, have a stroke, thrombosis and clots in the legs. Excess body fat can lead to impaired cardiac function. These are only some of the health risks of obesity.

Excess body fat can lead to insulin resistance and increase the likelihood of type 2 diabetes in both adults and children. Obesity can be a factor in the development of cancer, because of the eating patterns that get us to obesity (most people don’t get obese by eating fruits and vegetables) also increase the likelihood of developing some kind of cancer. Inactivity also increases the risk of cancer. Some estimates suggest that poor diet and exercise may account for up to a third of the cancer risk.

Excess body fat can lead to different types of cancer, most notably endometrial cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer and breast cancer. Obese people are more likely to have degenerative joint disease. It makes it more likely to have sleep apnea, mechanical breathing constraints (particularly during exercise). It just takes more effort to work the chest wall if it has huge amounts of fat.

Obese people have more problems with anesthesia during surgery, as well as compromised wound healing. It also increases the likelihood of developing gallbladder disease.

A newly discovered consequence is fatty infiltration of the liver. This is known as nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. Some estimates suggest that as the liver becomes infiltrated with fat, it causes hepatitis and that can lead to liver failure.

Psychological Burden

We’ve seen the physical risks of obesity. Obesity also has deep psychological effects: depression, being stigmatized by people, bullying and discrimination. This is really one of the least accepted forms of discriminations. We have made great advances in our culture: most of us accept that we can have different religious beliefs, or that we can have different ethnicity and still have the same rights. However, we are not sensitive to the individuals who are overweight.

In 2002, the cost of overweight in the US was estimated to be 92 billion dollars!

A Light of Hope

Losing weight can reduce the risks of all these diseases. Obese people that loose as little as 5% of their bodyweight can have improvement in blood pressure, insulin levels, glucose, cholesterol and triglycerides. You don’t have to lose 80 pounds to get good results. As little as 5% to 10% weight loss can help.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

How Do You Know If You Are Overweight

How do you know if you are overweight? BMI is the gold standard of measurements of weight. There are web-based ways of calculating your BMI, you can google it. You can also do it yourself, it's not that hard. Take your weight in pounds times 703 and divide it by your height in inches squared. In general, a BMI of less than 24.9 is considered normal weight. If you’re between 25 and 29.9, you're considered overweight. A BMI greater than 30 is considered obese.

BMI is a population-based standard. It’s not necessarily the best assessment tool for an individual. For example, athletes have a high BMI because they have more muscle mass. If you are very physically active you might want another assessment technique.

BMI doesn’t account for individuals who have normal weight but are metabolically obese(high body fat percentage). For most of us, however, BMI is going to be great to asses our weight. It can help to predict risks of the big three: heart disease, diabetes and cancer; because they all increase with BMI.

The definitive assessment for body composition is the body fat percentage. Say for example that I have a normal BMI, but I want to see what that body composition is. How much of my weight is muscle vs. fat? If a woman has more than 30% body fat, or a man has more than 20%, they can be in the risk sector of the population. There are different types of tests, and I recommend you to go to an exercise facility to get them done.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

More Facts About Obesity

As a continuation of my previous article, here we’ll continue exploring the facts about obesity. Race and ethnicity also plays a role in weight gain. American Indians, African Americans and Hispanic women are more likely to be overweight than white women. These races typically value thinness less than white Americans. They tend to have a more normalized view of what weight should be, not the distorted one that most white women have.

We now know that there is an actual science of satiety. Satiety is under the control of two relatively newly discovered hormones: leptin and ghrelin. Leptin signals that the body has had enough food. It is kind of an off-switch. Leptin resistance can occur, however. That means that you’re producing leptin, your body is not using it effectively and that off-switch doesn’t do its job. There are studies that suggest that sleep deprivation may contribute to obesity. This is because leptin decreases with sleep deprivation. Getting those 8 to 10 hours of sleep everyday should be part of every weight loss strategy.

In our bodies we always have opposing hormones. Ghrelin is the hormone that stimulates appetite. It is the on-switch. In the years to come we’re going to see some pharmacology directed at manipulating those hormones.

Social and environmental factors play a major role in the development of obesity. Americans are more likely to be obese if they have a low socioeconomic status. Individuals under the poverty line have very few resources to put together a healthy diet. Quite honestly, fat and sugar calories are unbelievably cheap. We also see obesity rising among the affluent also, so this isn’t the only factor.

The level of education is associated with bodyweight as well, mostly for women. This illustrates the different standards for men and women.

We are bombarded with images of individuals who are lean and fit in a country that’s getting heavier. In the last Olympics, where some women competing there were heavier, disparaging remarks were made about their bodyweight. We didn’t here this comments about the men, however. There have been some estimates that suggest that to be Miss America your bodyweight needs to be 10% to 15% below ideal.

One factor that doesn’t get explored very often is something called the built environment. For example, if you live in a neighborhood with no sidewalks, are you going to go out and walk? Without sidewalks I don’ feel safe, so I have to get in my car to go get physical activity. Think about inner city neighborhoods. If you don’t have good sidewalks people are not going to be out being physically active.

We have social factors as well that influence the way we choose our food. When we’re with friends we tend to overeat. Think about times you’ve spent time with relatives and there’s food everywhere. Science also suggests that we eat what’s in front of use. If the portions you’re given are large, you tend to eat them anyway.

A lack of exercise is a major factor contributing to obesity. Only 22% of Americans get the recommended amount of exercise (somewhere around 30 minutes a day most days of the week). 25% of US adults are not active at all. All they do is to get from their chair to the car, getting no real physical exercise.

Television viewing is highly correlated with a low level of activity for both children and adults. Why is that the case? Most of us are not terribly active while we’re watching television. Here’s a tip: make sure you’re riding that bike for at least 30 minutes of your television viewing a day.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Facts About Obesity

Let’s talk facts about obesity. Obesity is now a global problem. It has displaced malnutrition and infectious disease as the number one global nutrition-related problem. It is on the rise in every country in the world, mostly in the industrialized areas. In the United States, prevalence has increased over the last decade. Today, about 66% of Americans fall into the category of overweight or obese. Unfortunately, children and adolescents form the group that is getting the biggest the fastest. One in six children is overweight.

If obesity was an infectious disease, we would marshal all of our resources in fighting it. Clearly, we’re not there yet. The dichotomy is that as obesity increases, the societal emphasis on thinness and weight management also increases. Each year, the diet industry makes between 40 and 50 billion dollars from weight-loss products. In the year 2000, 38% of adults were trying to lose weight.

Does dieting work? Clearly it does. A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that any dietary strategy is going to work, but here is the caveat: YOU HAVE TO STICK WITH IT. The average dieter lasts 2 weeks. You’re not going to get where you want to be in two weeks.

There is more fraud and misinformation in this industry than in any other. We’re spending more money, but we’re not getting the results. We know that children and adolescents are concerned with weight. In a study involving high-school girls, 28% to 40% reported being on a diet or concerned with being fat. Teens believe the best strategy to lose weight is to exercise and skip meals. That is wrong. Calorie management and exercise is what really works, but surveys suggest that teens don’t believe that.

How do we get obese?

As with every other chronic illness, genetics can rule the day. When both parents are morbidly obese, there is an 80% chance that their children would be also. The good news is that when neither parent is obese, there is less than a 10% chance that children would be obese. However, about 25% to 30% of obese people have normal weight parents. Some studies with twins suggest that there is a genetic component. It is estimated that your genetic makeup can account for about 50% up to 90% of the variations you might have in terms of your ability to store body fat.

You can look at it this way: genetics can load the gun, but the environment pulls the trigger. You might have the genetic predisposition, but environmental factors activate those genes.


We have three different types of obesity. We have hyper-cellular, hypertrophic, hyperplastic. Hyper-cellular obesity is an above average number of fat cells. You can be born with them, or you can develop them through over-eating. Hypertrophic obesity happens when fat cells are larger than normal. These cells continue to expand as they fill with fat. When they are full, the body has the ability to make new fat cells. Here’s the scary part: when body fat is 3 to 5 times the normal amount, you have the ability to make more fat cells.

Weight loss doesn’t decline the number of fat cells, making it difficult to lose weight once the body has created them. Why is that the case? When the fat cell becomes empty, it sends triggers asking for more food.

Sex and Age

Sex and age also play a role in the development of obesity. This is because men and women set different standards for themselves. Growth and development occurs at different rates and has a different outcome for boys and girls. If I could rule the world, I would teach puberty a little bit different to adolescents: Boys grow up and out under the influence of testosterone, and add significant amounts of lean mass. Girls grow up and fill out. They add some body fat under the influence of estrogen. That is a normal phenomenon that should occur, but girls look at this as undesirable. They see their older brother getting bigger and more muscular, and then see how they get fat inside of their thighs and think it is wrong. That is absolutely normal and good.

Males, in general, are more accepting of personal weight gain. That makes sense. When I gain weight, I generally add a significant amount of lean mass, so I’m fine. Adult males tend to see themselves as overweight at higher weights, while women think they are overweight even when they are close to a healthy bodyweight. Some women only feel thin when they are about 10% below their ideal bodyweight.

Both men and women gain most of their weight between the ages of 25 and 34. For women, that weight gain can go on until menopause.

Friday, April 23, 2010


Selenium’s job is to reduce peroxide free radicals, which are believed to cause aging and are implicated in various forms of cancer. It works synergistically with vitamin E as an antioxidant. It plays a vital role in thyroid function. Plants are the most common dietary source of this mineral. The amount of it that is in plant products depends on how much mineral was in the soil where this plant was grown. If the plant was grown in selenium-deficient soil, the food is going to be deficient also.

In the United States, the selenium content in plants can vary almost 200-fold from region to region. Meat and poultry tend to be more reliable sources of selenium, because animals are usually fed with supplements of this mineral.

High doses of iron, vitamin C and heavy metals can decrease the absorption of selenium.

The SELECT study was designed to see the effects of selenium and other antioxidants in the prevention of prostate cancer. After 5 years, the intervention group showed no difference from the controlled group, suggesting that there was no benefit from taking selenium.

However, there is a correlation between selenium levels in your blood and something called C-reactive protein, which is a measure of inflammation. The higher your C-reactive protein, the greater your inflammatory response. In some studies, the higher the selenium level in the blood, the lower your C-reactive protein, suggesting that selenium may reduce inflammation. This inflammatory response is thought to be part of the process of heart disease and cancer.

Beyond heart disease, there is an ongoing interest in selenium supplementation. Originally, the interest surfaced when about 180 men with HIV had a reduction in hospitalization with 200 micrograms of selenium. Supplementation may offer some protection from basal cell carcinomas, but an increased risk of squamous cell skin cancer. The take-home point is that we should concentrate on selenium-rich foods, not supplements.

Selenium deficiencies are rare in the United States, where intake is typically 100 to 250 micrograms per day. Deficiencies are on the rise, however. They are prevalent after a gastric-bypass surgery. As the number of Americans going for a gastric bypass surgery increases, the heart diseases associated with selenium deficiencies are on the rise.

Toxicity can exist, but it is usually at doses greater than 900 micrograms per day. Increased levels of selenium may increase the likelihood of glucose intolerance, which is one of the precursors of diabetes.

Daily Recommended Amounts

Infant, 0–6 months15 micrograms
Infant, 7–12 months20 micrograms
Child, 1–3 years20 micrograms
Child, 4–8 years30 micrograms
Male, 9–13 years40 micrograms
Male, 14–70 years55 micrograms
Female, 9–13 years40 micrograms
Female, 14–70 years55 milligrams

Good Food Sources

1 whole egg, boiled13.55 micrograms
4 oz chicken breast, roasted28 micrograms
1/4 cup sunflower seeds, raw21.42 micrograms
1 sardine48.48 micrograms
1 cup oats, cooked18.95 micrograms
1 cup pasta, whole wheat, cooked36.3 micrograms

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Zinc Facts

Let’s talk about zinc facts. Over half of the body’s zinc supply is found in muscle tissue. It is also found in bone, eyes, prostate gland, skin and kidneys. It is an essential mineral for over 100 enzymes. It is necessary for strong cell membranes and wound healing. Even though there is a normal requirement for zinc, if you have surgery, your requirements are going to go up. It is also needed in tissue growth and repair. It is needed for protein synthesis, DNA and RNA maintenance, blood clotting and taste perception. One of the first signs of zinc deficiency is that food doesn’t taste like anything. It is needed in bone mineralization, healthy thyroid function, normal cognition, fetal development and pubertal growth. This is one of these minerals that has a wide variety of functions. Deficiencies can be a real problem.

Zinc Facts: Benefits

There are conflicting results regarding the effectiveness of zinc lozenges used for colds. A recent review showed no significant benefit from the use of lozenges. Now, there may be a mild protective effect against age related macular degeneration. Researchers showed that 80 milligrams of zinc, which is a significant dose, plus antioxidants and copper, slowed the progression of AMD. In this case, more than what is needed might be beneficial if you’re in a high risk category.

Supplemental zinc may also prove beneficial to the elderly, as zinc deficiency is more common in this population. If you have someone in your family who is complaining that food doesn’t taste great, you may want to check with his doctor.

Zinc Facts: Bioavailability

The body absorbs anywhere between 15% and 40% of dietary zinc. Excess intake of iron or copper can interfere with zinc absorption. Two studies have shown that a high-calcium diet (with supplements) decreases the absorption in post-menopausal women. Medications can also have an impact on zinc status. Many of the high blood pressure medications can interfere with your body’s abilities to absorb an utilize zinc. Any time you decide to take a supplement, your healthcare provider must know.

Zinc from meat sources, just as with iron, is about 4 times more bioavailable than zinc from plants. Vegetarians may need up to 50% more zinc, given the issues with bioavailability. Zinc and iron often share food sources. If you’re deficient in iron, you may also be deficient in zinc.

Zinc Facts: Deficiencies and Excess

Dietary deficiency of zinc in the United States is rare. However, the elderly, lower income children and alcoholics are more at risk. The symptoms of a deficiency are not so unique: anemia, delayed growth in children, slow wound healing, glucose intolerance, poor appetite and taste. Skin problems can develop around the eyes, nose and mouth. You can have a dermatitis around your eyes, the opening of your nose and mouth.

The upper limit for zinc in adults is 40 milligrams per day. In some of the research studies they are using a larger dose than this, because they are trying to correct the deficiency. An intake of 80 milligrams per day can result in a lower level of HDL cholesterol, reduction of white blood cells and an interference with the mineral copper. It can also result in defective cholesterol metabolism. As with all mineral excess, it can cause vomiting and diarrhea.

Daily Recommended Values

Infant, 0–6 months2 milligrams
Infant, 7–12 months3 milligrams
Child, 1–3 years3 milligrams
Child, 4–8 years5 milligrams
Male, 9–13 years8 milligrams
Male, 14–18 years11 milligrams
Male, 19–70 years11 milligrams
Female, 9–13 years8 milligrams
Female, 14–18 years9 milligrams
Male, 19–70 years8 milligrams

Foods High in Zinc

1 cup baked bean, canned5.79 milligrams
8 oz yogurt, plain, low-fat2.02 milligrams
1 cup spinach, boiled1.37 milligrams
1 oz peanuts0.94 milligrams
1/4 cup sunflower seeds1.69 milligrams
3 oz beef chuck roast, cooked7 milligrams

Monday, April 19, 2010

Iron Rich Foods

Today we have a lot of iron rich foods. In fact, it is hard to find a breakfast cereal that is not fortified with iron. However, here I want to talk about other sources of iron, maybe not so conventional. First, let’s talk about your needs for iron. That varies depending on age and gender. Infants, for example, actually need more iron than an adult male! Did you know that? Breast milk is actually a terrific source of iron, while cow’s milk has no iron. This is why it is recommended to breast-feed newborns and infants up until the first year o life. We older folks, however, need other sources of this wonderful mineral. This table shows how much iron we need, according to age and gender:

Infant, 0–6 months0.27 milligrams
Infant, 7–12 months11 milligrams
Child, 1–3 years7 milligrams
Child, 4–8 years10 milligrams
Male, 9–13 years8 milligrams
Male, 14–18 years11 milligrams
Male, 19–50 years8 milligrams
Male, 51–70 years8 milligrams
Female, 9–13 years8 milligrams
Female, 14–18 years15 milligrams
Female, 19–30 years18 milligrams
Female, 31–50 years18 milligrams
Female, 51–70 years8 milligrams
Pregnancy, younger than 18 years27 milligrams
Pregnancy27 milligrams
Lactation10 milligrams

Iron Rich Foods

Now, let’s talk about food. These are some good sources of iron:

1 oz pumpkin seeds, roasted4.2 milligrams
1/4 block tofu1.3 milligrams
1/4 cup sunflower seeds1.22 milligrams
1 cup spinach, boiled6.43 milligrams
3 oz tuna, canned in water1.3 milligrams
1 packet instant oatmeal, plain10.55 milligrams
1 cup sweet potatoes, canned2 milligrams
1 cup raisins2.73 milligrams
1 square chocolate, unsweetened4.93 milligrams
4 oz lean beef, broiled4.05 milligrams

Friday, April 16, 2010

Facts About Iron

Let’s see the facts about iron. Iron is a component of hemoglobin, myoglobin and many enzymes within the body. Hemoglobin is the protein on red blood cells that is responsible for oxygen transport. Its partner myoglobin is a protein found in muscle tissue. Iron has an integral role in brain development and it is absolutely critical in the first two years of life. It is vital in the production of the protective membrane in the central nervous system. It is also involved in the production of neurotransmitters, which are chemicals that carry signals between nerve cells.

Breast milk has very biologically available iron, but cow’s milk is devoid of iron. This is one of the reasons why it is recommended to breast-feed newborns up for the first year of life.

Iron is a structural part of many enzymes that have a multitude of functions. It also helps in the detoxification of your liver. Detox diets are popular today, but keep in mind that your liver does an amazing job, just make sure you have adequate amounts of iron in your diet and you’ll be fine.

It is also essential in the maintenance and functioning of the immune system. Bacteria also require iron for growth, however. If you’re taking lots of supplemental iron that has not been prescribed by your physician, bacteria can grow more easily. It is for that reason that many nutrition-support products, like things given intravenously in the hospital, are iron-free.

More Facts About Iron: Bioavailability

On average, only about 10% of the dietary iron that you consume is absorbed by the body. In general, women absorb 13% of iron and men about 6%. Why does that happen? The amount of iron that is absorbed depends on what is needed. Absorption can range from 1% to 50% depending on your state of deficiency. Absorption is more effective during times of deficiency. If you are deficient your body actually ramps up the absorption.

Dietary iron comes in two distinct forms: heme iron and nonheme iron. Heme iron is found mainly in animal products and is absorbed much more effectively than nonheme irons, which is found in grains and plants. If you’re vegetarian your absorption of iron might be compromised.

Is there anything you could do to increase the absorption of iron? Your grandmother probably had the best answer: cooking with a black iron skillet can be a valuable source of contaminant iron. It can increase the iron content of a meal from anywhere between 30% to 100%.

There are other things in the diet that can influence the amount of iron you absorb. Calcium, zinc, magnesium and phosphorus can also reduce the absorption of iron. Tannic acids is found in coffee and tea, and it also decreases absorption, so much that if you drink coffee or tea around an hour before or after a meal, you can reduce your absorption by as much as 40%.

More Facts About Iron: Deficiency and Toxicity

Deficiencies can be caused by chronic bleeding or malabsorption. Children, pregnant or menstruating women and repeat blood donors are at most risk for iron deficiency. One in ten pre-menopausal women in the United States has deficiency of this mineral. The symptoms of deficiency include short attention span (mostly in children). In adults in can manifest as extreme fatigue or poor immune system functioning. Other biological markers are pale inner eyelids and behavioral changes. Eventually, deficiency is going to impair red blood cell synthesis and the result is iron deficiency anemia.

Can you have an excess of iron? Yes. Iron toxicity due to the overconsumption of dietary iron is not common, especially since nonheme iron absorption decreases as you eat more of it. The excess iron acts as an oxidant, and it can have very negative health implications. Irons poisoning is common when children eat vitamins like candy. Treat your supplements like drugs. Iron overdose from supplements is one of the leading causes of poisoning under the age of 6.

Iron supplementation in those with normal stores can actually increase DNA damage, and this in turn increases the risk of cancer. Individuals who eat large amounts of calories are also at risk of iron overload. This is so because it is hard to find foods that are not fortified with iron.

People who received repeated blood transfusions and alcoholics are at high risk of having iron poisoning. Large amounts of alcohol can actually increase the uptake of iron.

The upper limit of iron intake is 45 milligrams per day for adults. For teens and children is 40 milligrams. If you have a deficiency, your physician may prescribe higher doses than that.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

How to Lower Your Blood Pressure Without a Pill

Keeping blood pressure within a normal range is very important because it reduces the risk of heart failure, coronary heart disease, kidney disease and stroke. Sodium and potassium balance is the key to keep a healthy blood pressure. There is a lot of confusion about these two minerals, however. Sodium intake in the United States regularly exceeds the recommended daily amount of less than 2300 milligrams. Studies have shown that the higher the person’s salt intake, the higher the individual’s blood pressure. Along with this problem of sodium overconsumption is the under-consumption of its antagonist: potassium. Higher potassium intake helps to lower blood pressure by blunting the effects of sodium. Diets rich in potassium are also associated with a reduced risk of developing kidney stones as well as reduction of bone lose with age.

Here I want to talk about some practical ways to reduce your sodium, increase your potassium, and enjoy a healthy cardiovascular system. Visit this page to know how much of these minerals you need to eat daily and why, if you’re healthy. If you have any health problem, consult your doctor.

Facts About Sodium Intake in the American Diet

77% of the sodium we consume comes from food processing. So, the more processed a food is (the higher the ingredient list or the more hands touched it), the higher the sodium content and the lower the potassium content.

12% of the sodium is naturally occurring. This means sodium naturally found in the food, not added by the manufacturer. Some food items are naturally higher in sodium than others. Milk is a great example.

6% of the sodium is added at the table.

5% is added during cooking.

Studies have shown that an individual's preference for salt is not genetically fixed. If you reduce the amount of sodium in your diet, your mouth gets used to the taste after a while and your cravings disappear. You can use other flavoring in place of salt. I personally love spicy foods. Your food can be spicy and not salty. You can use chili, red pepper and others.

Other studies have shown that the amount of salt that people add to their food at the dinner table is generally stable. I’ve seen individuals who add salt to their food even before tasting it. This is just a well-established habit, not a real necessity.

Practical Steps

According to the facts about our American diet, the most important thing is to focus on food selection: more fresh, less processed. Because most sodium comes from manufacturing practices, it is important to read and compare food labels of different brands. For example, the sodium content of one brand of soup that you like might be over 1000 milligrams sodium, compared to 700 milligrams in another brand that you like as well. Always choose the lower sodium content. Do this even if you don’t have high blood pressure now.

Avoid overly processed foods, prepared meals and mixes. Remember that the more hands touched it, the higher the sodium content. You can also think about this as the more instant the food is, the higher the sodium content. Think about instant cakes and other things that are quick and easy to make. If you make a cake the old-fashioned way with milk and flavoring, it is going to have only the natural sodium that is found in the milk. If you make an instant cake, you can watch on the label how the sodium content rises.

Another invaluable way of reducing your blood pressure is to increase your potassium intake. To increase your potassium you should want to include more leafy green vegetables, root vegetables and fruits in your diet. All of these are rich in potassium and they favorably affect metabolic processes that can reduce your risk of kidney stones and bone loss.

Balance your plate with at least 50% fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are where potassium resides. Certainly you can limit condiments such as barbecue sauce. These condiments are a hidden source of sodium.

If aren’t eating any fruits or vegetables at all, start with a fruit a day. You can increase gradually from there. Keep adding more and more fruits and vegetables to your daily diet, they’re always good (unless you get an orange glow in your skin from eating too many carrots!).

If you keep improving your diet like that, you’ll reach a point where you no longer crave salty foods. You will understand that you didn’t really need it, it was just a habit. When you have established the new positive habit, it would be as well-established as the old one: you’ll be addicted to your new healthy diet!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Sodium and Potassium: Deficiency and Excess

Your body works really hard to keep the amount of sodium and potassium in your blood normal, as that is essential for fluid management. However, deficiencies and excesses are possible. Some individuals have great sodium loses through their skin. Endurance athletes are an example (marathoners, triathlon runners, etc.). If you are exercising for more than two hours you’re going to have a significant amount of sodium lose due to excess sweat. The amount of sodium lost through sweat varies significantly among individuals, and depends on whether or not you’re a salty sweater. How do you know that? Well, if when running you can feel the grains of salt on your face, you are a salty sweater. If you’re a salty sweater you lose more sodium in your sweat than normal.

Sodium loses in athletes can be up to 2500 milligrams of sodium per liter of sweat. Sweat tends to be saltier in the early stages of training. When you train longer, your body actually reduces the amount of sodium loss. If you are working out for more than an hour, I encourage you to drink a sports drink with enough sodium, at least 100 milligrams per 8 ounces. Although fluid consumption is important for the prevention of cramping during exercise, it is almost always the excessive loss of sodium that causes it.

Sodium deficiency, called hyponatremia, is most often seen in endurance athletes who eat a large amount of fresh food (with very low sodium content) and drink water excessively during exercise. Hyponatremia can cause the brain to swell, lack of energy and confusion. I’ve heard of college fraternities hazing with water. You almost get the same kind of look to the person as when they had too much alcohol.

There are no upper safety limits that have been established for sodium because excess amounts are generally filtered and excreted by the kidneys. Excess consumption of this mineral is associated, however, with higher blood pressure, edema and fluid retention. High blood pressure, as a disease, is associated with increased risk of heart attack, heart failure and stroke. Additionally, high blood pressure is the leading cause of chronic kidney failure. Keep in mind that even a moderate elevation of arterial blood pressure can cause a shortened life expectancy. This is why controlling and limiting your sodium intake is so vital. A great gift you can give your children is to not salt your food. The more you introduce it in young children, the more likely they are to depend on it the older they get.

Potassium deficiencies are rarely due to dietary causes alone. It can develop due to the over-excretion of potassium, which is medication-induced. Another underappreciated cause of low potassium is a low-carbohydrate diet. Low carbohydrate diets contain very little potassium, because they eliminate most fruits and vegetables.

What are the general symptoms of potassium deficiencies? Fatigue, muscular weakness, confusion, anxiety, temporary memory loss, diarrhea or constipation, sleep disruption and noise in your ear. These symptoms are vague, non-specific and often described as “don’t feel well”.

What about too much potassium, or hyperkalemia? It is most often caused by abnormal kidney or renal functioning, resulting in ineffective elimination. For example, if you have kidney disease and end up with dialysis, you lose the body’s ability to get rid of the potassium excess. Excessive intake of potassium causing hyperkalemia is rare. Excessive intake of salt substitutes, however, may cause it. If I use a salt substitute I’m getting rid of the sodium, but I have to put some other mineral for my food to have a taste. Often these salt substitutes have potassium chloride. Dietary supplements also can be a source of excess potassium. The general symptoms are heart palpitations, muscular weakness and sometimes sudden death in extreme cases.

These are the results of too much or too little sodium or potassium in your body. Excessive sodium intake is common among Americans. This, as I mentioned, causes a higher risk of heart disease because of higher blood pressure. This is why keeping your sodium relatively low and your potassium high is so vital. In a future article I’ll give you practical tips to do just that, stay tuned.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Sodium Vs. Potassium

There is a lot of confusion about sodium and its partner potassium. They play a very important role in regulating fluid exchange within body compartments. As such, blood levels of these electrolytes are rarely affected only by dietary means. That makes sense, if they are so integral to function, your body must have a lot of defense mechanisms to keep the blood values of them within narrow range. These two minerals play a major role in blood pressure. Keeping blood pressure within a normal range is very important because it reduces the risk of heart failure, coronary heart disease, kidney disease and stroke. In general, the higher the person’s salt intake, the higher the individual’s blood pressure.

Sodium intake in the United States regularly exceeds the recommended daily amount of less than 2300 milligrams. Since sodium makes up about 40% of salt, this amount is about a tea spoon of table salt a day.

There is about 4500 milligrams of sodium in a typical western diet, but this truly depends on the region where you live in. Since the body only requires 500 milligrams of sodium per day, this means many of us are taking almost ten times what we need. However, it’s not practical to only consume the body biological requirement. Sodium is in a lot of different foods, so it’s really practical (almost impossible) to reduce your sodium intake to that minimum requirement.

Along with this problem of sodium overconsumption is the under-consumption of its “antagonist”: potassium. Higher potassium intake helps to lower blood pressure by blunting the effects of sodium. Diets rich in potassium are also associated with a reduced risk of developing kidney stones as well as reduction of bone lose with age.

What are the functions of these wonderful electrolytes? Sodium and potassium are necessary for the regulation of blood and other fluids, they stimulate the action of muscular activity, proper gland function and heart activity. They are also really important for maintaining what is called the electrochemical gradients. Sodium is essential for hydration because it pumps water into your cells. Potassium functions in the pumping of byproducts or waste products out of the cell. They really serve as the body’s fluid regulator and waste product regulator.

How much sodium and potassium do I need? I cannot stress this enough: in general, healthy adults should consume no more than 2300 milligrams of sodium per day. African Americans, individuals from middle age or older and individuals with high blood pressure should aim to consume no more 1500 milligrams per day.

What about potassium? The recommended amount for adults is 4700 milligrams. You can see that you need much more potassium than sodium.

Sources of Sodium (try to avoid them as much as you can if you are a normal healthy adult):

1 teaspoon of salt2300 milligrams
1 cup cottage cheese, 2% fat746 milligrams
2 slices ham, extra lean601 milligrams

Great Sources of Potassium:

1 medium sweet potato, baked694 mg
1 medium potato, baked, with skin610 milligrams
1 banana467 milligrams
1 cup milk, 1%–2% fat366 milligrams
1 cup broccoli, steamed505 milligrams
1 cup tomatoes399 milligrams
1 cup carrots, raw394 milligrams

Monday, April 5, 2010


Magnesium is an essential mineral and the fourth most abundant in the human body. It plays a role in bone mineralization, energy metabolism, muscle contraction and nerve impulse transmission. About 50% of the body’s total magnesium is housed in the bone. The other 50% is in cells of tissues and organs. Only 1% is in the blood, and the body keeps this fraction as a constant. More than 300 enzymes require the use of this mineral. Reactions catalyzed by it include fatty acid synthesis, glucose metabolism and protein productions. It also enhances the absorption of calcium in the intestine.

Increasingly, there has been an awareness that magnesium may be used to treat, manage and prevent disorders such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and hypertension.

It is the central mineral in chlorophyll. That means that anything that’s green is going to be a good source of it. Another source of magnesium can be tap water. The amount varies whether the water supply of minerals is hard or soft. Hard water, usually naturally contains more minerals, including magnesium.

Whole grains are great sources of it. However, when the grains are refined and they take off that outer bran area, magnesium and B vitamins are lost. The B vitamins are replaced, but magnesium is not.

Deficiencies in the United States are not prevalent. The concern of under-consumption of magnesium does not seem to be high among healthcare providers. However, dietary surveys show that Americans do not have enough of this mineral in their diet. Optimal intake may protect against cardiovascular disease and immune dysfunction.

Symptoms of deficiency include confusion, hallucinations, nervousness and muscular weakness. Suboptimal levels increase the likelihood of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. These diseases are epidemic in the United States. So, keep eating your green vegetables and whole grains!

Older adults have an increased risk of having a deficiency. Magnesium supplements may benefit individuals who have trouble controlling their diabetes. These individuals often experience an increased mineral loss in their urine. Other people who could benefit from supplements are alcoholics. 30% to 60% of alcoholics demonstrate low blood levels of this mineral.

Excess magnesium is filtered through the kidney, so it is hard to overdose from dietary sources. Renal disease, however, can cause deficiency and excess. Typical symptoms of excess magnesium include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and low blood pressure. If the state of excess continues for a prolonged period of time, the toxicity can result in cardiovascular and muscle irregularities.

Daily Recommended Amounts

Infant, 0–6 months30 milligrams
Infant, 7–12 months75 milligrams
Child, 1–3 years80 milligrams
Child, 4–8 years130 milligrams
Male, 9–13 years240 milligrams
Male, 14–18 years410 milligrams
Male, 19–50 years400 milligrams
Male, 51–70 years420 milligrams
Female, 9–13 years240 milligrams
Female, 14–18 years360 milligrams
Female, 19–50 years320 milligrams
Female, 51–70 years320 milligrams

Good Sources

1 oz cashews745 milligrams
1 cup broccoli39 milligrams
1 cup spinach, boiled156 milligrams
1 oz pumpkin seeds, roasted151 milligrams
1 cup black beans120 milligrams
1 banana32 milligrams
1 cup oatmeal56 milligrams

Saturday, April 3, 2010


Calcium is the most plentiful mineral in the human body and it has several significant roles. It is one of the skeleton’s primary building blocks. We find more than 99% of the body’s total calcium is in bones and teeth, where it provides structural support. The rest is found throughout the body: fluid between cells, blood and muscles. Outside its function in bone, it plays other important ones: in secreting hormones and enzymes and regulating their activity, it is used to send messages throughout the nervous system, it is involved in blood clotting and it aids in blood vessel and muscle contraction and expansion, it also contributes to normal heart rhythm.

For these important processes to take place efficiently, body fluids and tissues must maintain a constant level of this mineral. The skeleton stores calcium and other minerals. If the blood content of this mineral is too low, the body replenishes it with calcium stored in the bones.

Calcium deficiency is not often detected because of the lack of symptoms. Often it is only detected when there has been an extensive amount of bone mass lost. Diets high in protein and sodium can limit the bioavailability of this mineral. As Americans consume more and more protein in their diet, they may be impacting their absorption of this mineral.

When the reservoir of calcium in your bone is depleted, bone fractures can occur even under minimum stress. Outside of its effects in bone, the risk of inadequate intake can lead to increased risk of high blood pressure. Some studies suggest that there is an increased risk of colon cancer linked with poor intake.

Osteopenia, often the beginning of osteoporosis, is also caused by deficiency of this mineral in diet. Bones are dynamic tissues and they are constantly going through a process of breakdown and deposition. As people grow older, the amounts of breakdown and deposition are altered. More formation and less breakdown happens during childhood. With older people happens the opposite. You get one shot to build the skeleton, and that’s during the period of rapid bone formation from age 11 to 24. If you miss this bone formation time you won’t have the chance to do it later in life.

In early-middle adulthood, breakdown and deposition are nearly the same. In aging adults, and particularly in post-menopausal women, bone loss surpasses deposition. This bone loss increases the risk for osteoporosis. Some studies suggest that within the first year after menopause, women can lose up to 7% of bone. Exercise and diet can help to reduce the loss. Make sure to include strength training to your routine.

Calcium alone doesn’t improve bone mass. Too little calories, too little vitamin D and the wrong form of exercise can contribute to bone loss in even young women. Deficiency can also lead to poor blood clotting.

What about excess? Excess intake of this mineral can lead to a condition called hypercalcemia. This condition is often due to excessive vitamin D intake and is rarely caused by diet alone. In individuals with cancer, hypercalcemia may be present due to cancer’s effect on the bone. Cancer can chew up the bone and release calcium onto the bloodstream. Hypercalcemia causes fatigue, depression, confusion, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, constipation, pancreatitis and increased urination.

Daily Recommended Amounts

Infant, 0–6 months210 milligrams
Infant, 7–12 months270 milligrams
Child, 1–3 years500 milligrams
Child, 4–8 years800 milligrams
Male, 9–18 years1300 milligrams
Male, 19–50 years1000 milligrams
Male, 51–70 years1300 milligrams
Female, 9–18 years1300 milligrams
Female, 19–50 years1000 milligrams
Female, 51–70 years1200 milligrams

Food Sources

1 cup cottage cheese, 2% fat206 milligrams
3 oz sardines325 milligrams
1 cup milk, 2% fat296 milligrams
8 oz yogurt, fruit, low-fat345 milligrams
1 cup broccoli, cooked62 milligrams
1 cup navy beans126 milligrams
1 cup kale, cooked94 milligrams

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Vitamin B

The scientists who first discovered vitamin B soon learned that it wasn’t just one vitamin, but a group of 8 substances. B vitamins are a group of water-soluble vitamins, meaning that excess is excreted in your urine. They act as coenzymes in the release of energy from food. They don’t provide energy, they facilitate the release. If you think of metabolism as the engine in your body, B vitamins are the lubrication needed to keep the engine moving optimally. They don’t substitute the fuel, they lubricate the engine. A common crazy misconception is that vitamins have calories.

Some facts about B vitamin family:

- As a family of compounds, B vitamins are intertwined. Food sources are shared and often similar. If you have a deficiency of one, you’d be more likely to have a deficiency of another one.

- Alcohol is the ultimate destroyer of vitamin B. Alcoholics can exhibit signs and symptoms of deficiency of many B vitamins.

- B vitamin deficiencies are manifested in the mouth. Actually, they manifest in the whole gastrointestinal tract, but we see them in the mouth.

This group of vitamins include 8 compounds. I have separate articles for the most famous ones:

-Thiamin (vitamin B1): breaks down carbohydrate for energy.

-Riboflavin (vitamin B2): supports energy metabolism in the body.

-Niacin (vitamin B3): supports energy metabolism in the body.

- Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5): synthesizes enzymes important for obtaining energy from fat.

- Pyridoxine (vitamin B6): essential for amino-acid (protein building-blocks) metabolism.

- Biotin (vitamin B7): helps in fat synthesis and metabolism, amino-acid metabolism.

- Folic acid or folate (vitamin B9): essential for metabolism of amino-acids and synthesis of DNA. Also essential in cell division and development of neural tube in fetuses.

- Cyanocobalamin (vitamin B12): needed in the production of red blood cells, the maintenance of the central nervous system, the metabolism of fat, protein and carbohydrate.

Vitamin B12

Let’s talk about vitamin B12. As opposed to all the other B vitamins, which you must have daily in your diet, the body can store supply of B12 for up to two years in the liver. B12 is needed in the production of red blood cells, the maintenance of the central nervous system, the metabolism of fat, protein and carbohydrate. The absorption of B12 requires the production of adequate stomach acid and an intrinsic factor. An intrinsic factor is secreted in the stomach and is a substance that unlocks B12 from food. Gastric bypass, used for the management of obesity, reduces the amount of acid and intrinsic factor that the stomach produces. This loss also occurs naturally with the aging process and about 30% of those over 50 years old can mal-absorb the vitamin.

B12 vitamin deficiencies can take years to develop. If someone goes to the doctor after gastric bypass they may find they have adequate amounts of B12 in their blood. Over of time, however, they may lose the ability to absorb this vitamin. Sometimes they use injections or big oral doses of 500 milligrams. The injection only works if you actually have deficiency. You may see a lot of people believing that they need to have a B12 injection every month. That is true if you’re deficient.

B12 deficiency can cause a type of anemia called Pernicious anemia. You can also have nerve destruction that’s irreversible. Make sure you have adequate amounts, and if you are over the age of 50 or just had a gastric bypass, you should check your status. Vitamin B12 is only found in animal sources. If you’re vegan and don’t consume any food from animal sources, you may want to consult your doctor about whether you need a supplement or not.

Recent research also suggests that a deficiency of B12 may also increase the likelihood of neural tube defects.

There are no toxicities associated with B12.

Daily Requirements

Adults: 2.4 micrograms.

Foods Rich in Vitamin B12

113 grams calf's liver, braised41 micrograms
113 grams beef tenderloin, broiled2.92 micrograms
1 cup cow's milk, 2% fat0.9 micrograms
1 egg, boiled0.49 micrograms
1 cup yogurt, low-fat1.38 micrograms

Folic Acid

Folic acid, also known as folate, is a B vitamin (B9). When thinking of food sources of folate, think green and leafy. It is more stable than other B vitamins and it is often found in fortified foods. Folate is often sprayed on breakfast cereal, so make sure to drink all the milk, because water soluble vitamins (folate and other B vitamins) are washed off into the milk. It is needed for the metabolism of amino-acids. It is unique in the fact that is also needed in the synthesis of DNA and it is absolutely critical for cell division. This explains in part some of the medical uses developed around these functions.

It is essential for the development of the neural tube, which is the embryo's precursor to the central nervous system. Neural tube defects may cause the infant to be born without a portion of his brain. Since 50% of pregnancies are unplanned, all sexually active women of childbearing age should eat enough amounts of this essential vitamin.

What about folate and cancer? A Harvard study suggested that women who took folate for over 15 years had a significant reduction in colon cancer. Other studies suggest that if the cancer is already present, folate may fuel the disease, given its role in cell division. Folate may actually provide the fuel to continue that cancer on its growth path. If you have cancer, this vitamin probably is not what you would want to be taking.

The body absorbs about 100% of folate in fortified foods and supplements if they are taken on an empty stomach. The folic acid that is sprayed on breakfast cereal is actually more biologically available than the folate in food. 85% is going to be absorbed if other foods are present in that meal. Between 50% and 75% of folate naturally occurring in foods is absorbed by your body.

Folic acid is extremely vulnerable to heat. Heat can destroy up to 90% of food folate. Vitamin C can actually aid in the protection of folate.

Until recently, folate was one of the most common vitamin deficiencies in the United States. In 1998, the level of folate that was added to food was increased, which improved the blood levels of Americans and reduced the incident of neural tube defects.

Folate deficiency influences red blood cell development, resulting in blood cells that are poorly formed. This disease is called macrocytic anemia. Deficiency also impairs the synthesis of white blood cells and compromises the immune system. Any rapidly growing cell is quickly affected by folate deficiency, including the mouth.

Prescription medicines are out there that may actually act as a folate-antagonist, causing a deficiency intentionally. There are times when we want to halt cell division. Consult your doctor if you have any health problem.

This vitamin doesn’t have any known toxicity.

Daily Requirements

Adults: 400 micrograms.

Foods High in Folic Acid

1 cup spinach, boiled262 micrograms
1 cup broccoli, steamed94 micrograms
1 cup Brussel sprouts, boiled93.5 micrograms
1 cup green peas, boiled101 micrograms
1 orange39 micrograms
1 papaya115.5 micrograms

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Vitamin B6 – Pyridoxine

There are multiple forms of vitamin B6, but collectively they are known as pyridoxine. Pyridoxine is needed for the functioning of over 100 enzymes. It helps in protein synthesis, particularly that of non-essential amino-acids. It can also convert protein to glucose if energy needs are not being met. This vitamin can be destroyed by heat. Deficiency of this vitamin is rare, but when it occurs it causes a type of anemia called Microcytic hypochromic anemia. It can be confused with iron deficiency, because they cause the same effects. This disease can damage the nervous system and elevate the risk of heart disease.

Medical uses of pyridoxine became prevalent when this vitamin was linked with the treatment of premenstrual syndrome, also known as PMS. Doses as low as 15 milligrams per day might be helpful to treat PMS. A study in the mid 1980’s looked at women taking high doses of pyridoxine, greater than 500 milligrams per day, over a period of time. They developed neuromuscular diseases: they couldn’t put one foot in front of the other. They lacked coordination between the brain and muscles. This was the first time in history that a water-soluble vitamin exhibited toxicity.

The maximum you should consume of this vitamin is 100 milligrams per day. Supplements are available on the market that contain more than this amount without any warning of toxicity, so, be careful with those.

Required Daily Amounts

Male (18-50): 1.3 milligrams.
Male (50-70): 1.7 milligrams.
Female (18-50): 1.2 milligrams.
Female (50-70): 1.5 milligrams.

Good Sources of Pyridoxine

1 banana0.68 milligrams
1 cup broccoli0.22 milligrams
1 cup asparagus0.22 milligrams
1 cup spinach0.44 milligrams
1 cup potatoes, baked, with skin0.42 milligrams

Monday, March 29, 2010

Niacin – Vitamin B3

Niacin is a powerhouse B vitamin. It participates in over 200 enzymes under normal conditions and during times of intense activity. If you’re a runner you’re really going to ramp up the metabolic engine with it. Tryptophan (an amino-acid) is a precursor for vitamin B3, and provides about half of the amount needed. Riboflavin, vitamin B6 and iron are all needed to convert tryptophan to vitamin B3. A deficiency of these nutrients can worsen a deficiency of this essential vitamin.

Pellegra is the deficiency disease of vitamin B3, and it means rough skin in Italian. The skin becomes rough and black when exposed to sunlight. The signs of this deficiency include dermatitis, diarrhea, dementia and death. Pellegra historically has been a killer of humans.

Chronic alcoholism and significant poverty can contribute to its deficiency. What about vitamin B3 toxicity? This vitamin is sometimes considered a drug because it has clinical usefulness. High vitamin B3 doses (higher than the recommended upper limit of 35 milligrams) can be used to lower cholesterol and is very effective at that. Before other drugs were on the market, vitamin B3 was the main tool for lowering cholesterol.

A popular book published in the 1990’s titled “The 8 Week Cholesterol Cure” touted high doses of vitamin B3. It is rare to see side effects of high doses, but they are pretty impressive. You can get flushing, redness and itching of your skin. You can also have elevated liver enzymes by taking high doses of this vitamin. If your cholesterol is high, make sure you ask your healthcare provider what to do. Don’t try to fix it by yourself by taking lots of vitamin B3!

Vitamin B3 also may elevate blood sugar. If you have pre-diabetes or metabolic syndrome this vitamin as a drug may not be the compound for you.

Daily Requirements

Male (18-70): 16 milligrams.
Female (18-70): 14 milligrams.
Upper limit: 35 milligrams.

Foods High in Niacin

0.25 cup peanuts, raw4.4 milligrams
113 grams chicken, roasted14.4 milligrams
113 grams turkey, roasted7.22 milligrams
1 cup green peas3.2 milligrams

Riboflavin - Vitamin B2

Vitamin B2, also known as riboflavin, was originally thought to be part of the thiamin molecule. Excess vitamin B2 is excreted in your urine, because it is a water-soluble vitamin. The function of vitamin B2 can be described as lubrication of the engine. It extracts energy from carbohydrate, protein and fat. Some research suggests that it might have a role in the prevention of headaches.

This is a fuzzy B vitamin. It can be destroyed by ultraviolet light. Milk is a primary and significant source of vitamin B2, but if the milk is exposed to UV light, the vitamin in the milk can actually be destroyed. We’re now seeing that milk in glass bottles are becoming common again. That’s a bad idea. It is better if it comes in paper cartons. If it is in glass bottles vitamin B2 is going to be destroyed by UV light.

As with thiamin, vitamin B2 deficiency can occur in chronic alcoholics. The symptoms are an inflamed tongue, cracks at the corners of the mouth, the lips becoming inflamed and split. This deficiency is also common among teenage girls who don’t drink milk but soft diet drinks.

Vitamin B2 deficiency can also make other B vitamin deficiencies worse, such as vitamin B6 deficiency. If you skip breakfast you can end up with B vitamins deficiency.

Vitamin B2 is non-toxic, so no upper limit has been set. If you consume more than what you need, there is no risk of toxicity.

Daily Required Amounts

Males (18-70): 1.2 milligrams.
Females (18-70): 1.1 milligrams.

Foods High in Vitamin B2

1 cup reduced-fat milk (2% fat)0.4 milligrams
1 cup yogurt0.52 milligrams
1 cup spinach0.42 milligrams
113 grams Calf's liver, braised2.2 milligrams

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Vitamin B1

Historically, vitamin B1 (thiamin) deficiency disease was first described in Chinese writings over 4000 years ago. In 1885, a physician of the Japanese naval medical services cured sailors of a disease called beriberi by adding meat and milk to their diets. Beriberi means “I can’t, I can’t”. Thiamin is essential for breaking down carbohydrate and having a good source of energy.

Thiamin is part of a coenzyme that breaks down carbohydrate and powers protein synthesis. It helps in the production of neurotransmitters. Heat destroys the vitamin. Adding baking soda to vegetables destroys thiamin. Thiamin likes an acidic environment.

Thiamin deficiency can occur in as little as ten days. Body systems with high energy needs deteriorate first. Your central nervous system is a major energy consumer. It also can cause pins and needles sensations in hands and feet. Be careful with self-diagnosis, because there are other diseases and conditions that can cause tingling in hands and feet.

Thiamin deficiency is rare in developed countries. We have fortified foods and a wide variety of food sources. It is not rare, however, among alcoholics. It is prevalent but often overlooked. Many physicians don’t like to ask how much alcohol you consume. If you have a significant thiamin deficiency there are actually two different types. Wet beriberi is cardiac affects the cardiovascular system and causes fluid accumulation. Dry beriberi damages the nervous system.

Approximately 25% of alcoholics show signs and symptoms of thiamin deficiency. When paramedics find an unconscious unknown on the side of the road automatically think about thiamin deficiency.

This is one of the vitamins that don’t have any known toxicity. It is truly a water-soluble vitamin, you excrete all the excess.

Foods High in Thiamin

1 orange0.11 milligrams
1 cup oatmeal0.26 milligrams
1 cup tomatoes0.11 milligrams
1 cup spinach0.17 milligrams

A good and common source also is fortified breakfast cereals. You’ll have to look at the specific cereal to know its thiamin content.

Recommended daily intake

Males: 1.2 mg.

Females: 1.1 mg.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that functions like a hormone. It is not a truly dietary essential, because if you spend time in the sun, you can make it in your skin. The current requirement is now under review because of this. Emerging science suggests that vitamin D may aid in the prevention of diabetes and heart diseases, schizophrenia and cancer. This vitamin is a family of many compounds with only two being the most active: ergocalciferol (D2) and cholecalciferol (D3). The skin can make a version of vitamin D from cholesterol and then send it to the liver and kidney for final activation.


Its primary role is as a regulator. It is like the conductor of an orchestra. It tells cells what to do. There are receptors for vitamin D on cell membranes and nucleus of cells that receive the instructions from it. It regulates blood calcium level with the help of other hormones. Some studies suggest that vitamin D may protect your immune system and even help in cancer prevention.

The recommended amount of vitamin D is 5 micrograms for those under 50. The synthesis of vitamin D decreases in individuals above 50, so their requirement is 10 micrograms per day. Sometimes you may see the amount of vitamin D in nutrition labels in International Unites (IU). Remember this equation: 1 microgram = 40 IU.

There are many factors that can influence the vitamin D synthesis in your skin. Where you live is an important factor. In Texas you’ll have more sun exposure than in London. Skin color: if you’re African American, you have melanin on your skin that acts as a natural sunscreen, and you don’t make as much vitamin D in your skin. If you wear sunscreen you can reduce the synthesis of vitamin D. Put your sunscreen right as you walk out the door, and you’re still going to have vitamin synthesis because sunscreen takes about 10 minutes to activate. 10 to 15 minutes a day at the peak sun level is a good amount of exposure. I’m not promoting sun burn or skin cancer, keep it to 15 minutes.

Food sources of vitamin D are few, and most are fortified foods. Skim milk is fortified with vitamins A and D. Breakfast cereals are usually fortified with vitamin D. Oily fish, salmon for example, are good sources. Egg yolk and butter also are good sources.

Vitamin D Deficiency

The classic vitamin D deficiency symptoms are rickets and osteomalacia. This is a softening of the bones, a little different than osteoporosis. Deficiency can increase the fracture rate in older people, and also may explain why some people don’t respond to traditional osteoporosis treatment. Estimates of vitamin D deficiency in the United States suggest that up to 50% of African American adolescents are vitamin D deficient. This is the major nutritional deficiency in the United States. The challenge is that with obesity vitamin D is held in body fat, and that means it is not available in the blood.

Some experts suggest that we have an epidemic of vitamin D deficiency because the recommended requirements are too low. If you are one of the two thirds of Americans who are overweight, your vitamin D requirement is going to be higher. Some of these dissenting experts suggest that the requirement for optimal blood levels may be as high as 2000 IU.

According to Dr. Michael Holick, having sun exposure enough to induce mild redness can be considered equal to a dose of 20000 IU. The sun can be a powerful ally. I’m not promoting skin cancer, but never going outside is not very nice.

With these high amounts, shouldn’t we be concerned about toxicity? Sun exposure is not toxic, as the skin can regulate the amount of vitamin D precursor that is sent to the liver. We’ve got the ability in our body to regulate how much we’re getting. The brakes are in the skin, the liver and the kidney. Supplements can be toxic though, and the upper limit is 2000 IU according to the Food and Nutrition Board.

The best advice I can give you is to check your blood level of vitamin D at your next doctor’s visit. This is the best guarantee that you, as an INDIVIDUAL, are getting an adequate amount. Your blood level should be greater than 30 nanograms per milliliter.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Foods High in Vitamin E

Here I list foods high in Vitamin E and their content. Cooking, processing and storage can affect the vitamin E content of food. For example, sunflower oil that is stored for up to 3 months can lose 55% of vitamin E content. Keep it in your refrigerator and you’ll have more vitamin E. Roasting almonds can reduce vitamin E content by 80%. Peanut oil can lose up to a third of its vitamin E just by frying.

The higher your polyunsaturated fat intake, the more vitamin E you need. So, your required amount of vitamin E can be affected by the amount of polyunsaturated fat you take in. The requirement for adults is in the 15 milligrams per day, and 19 milligrams for breast-feeding women. Some supplements list its nutrients in international unites (IU). If vitamin E comes from natural sources, 1 IU is 1.67 milligrams. If it is in synthetic form (less effective), 1 IU is .45 milligrams.

Vitamin E deficiency is very rare. It only occurs in individuals with significant fat malabsorption or genetic disorders. In adults, deficiency may take up to 5 to 10 years to develop. Can it be toxic? As a fat-soluble vitamin, is relatively non-toxic. However, large amounts (more than 400 IU) may interfere with blood clotting, especially if you’re taking them with anticoagulants or aspirins. A recent analysis of 19 studies suggests that taking more than 400 IU may increase mortality from heart diseases. Don't worry about this if you're not taking supplements, it is almost impossible to have that amount only from food.

Foods High in Vitamin E:

100 grams sunflower oil41 milligrams
10 almonds9 milligrams
0.25 cup sunflower seeds18 milligrams
1 teaspoon safflower oil12 milligrams

Facts About Vitamin E

Let’s talks about the facts about vitamin E. Since its discovery, there have been a lot of misconceptions and myths about this essential nutrient, so I want to present you the hard science and what we can honestly know about it. It was first discovered in 1922, as its deficiency caused sterility in laboratory rats. Early on, it was considered an aphrodisiac by many people, but, as you may know, there is a big difference between infertility and sexual desire. It was promoted as anti-aging, said to prevent wrinkles and impotence.

In the early 1990’s vitamin E was one of the most popular dietary supplements. It is actually an antioxidant and the thought was that it could reduce the incidence of heart disease and cancer. Some of the studies at the time suggested that, so consumers where driven to buy supplements. Vitamin E may actually have some role in the reduction of chronic disease, but now almost every major study suggests that this vitamin is not the hero we thought it was. Major studies have failed to show an association between vitamin E intake and the prevention of chronic disease.

Let’s turn to the hard facts about vitamin E. It is a fat-soluble vitamin and it is stored in body fat. Its primary role is as an antioxidant. An antioxidant stabilizes cell membranes and protects them from oxidation. It protects lung membranes from environmental contaminants, it prevents mutations in DNA and also protects from cardiovascular disease by protecting lipid from being oxidized. Keep in mind that it is the oxidized LDL that is so lethal.

Vitamin E is part of the family of compounds called tocopherols. The most common form of it is alpha-tocopherol. There are other forms of it that are absorbed, but they contribute much less to the vitamin requirement than alpha-tocopherol.

Vitamin E and Heart Disease

Interest in vitamin E was generated when observational and epidemiological studies suggested it might lower the risk of heart disease. One of the most convincing studies was published in 1993 and suggested that women who took vitamin E for more than two years had a 30% to 40% risk reduction of cardiovascular disease.

At that time, other international studies suggested that vitamin E was also associated with reduced heart disease risk, so it wasn’t just in the United States, it was worldwide. Then came the HOPE study. With the HOPE study, vitamin E’s wheels began to come off. HOPE stands for Heart Outcomes Prevention and Evaluation. This long term study evaluated the effectiveness of vitamin E. They studied individuals who had preexisting vascular disease like diabetes, so they were in their way to developing heart disease. Vitamin E was thought to prevent heart disease, so why not give it to the most vulnerable people and see its effectiveness?

The study was unique because it followed individuals for up to 7 years. They were taking 400 IU of vitamin E, more than the requirement. There was no benefit in the prevention of heart disease or cancer in this group of individuals. They were high risk individuals and there was no effectiveness. Furthermore, in individuals who were taking this extra vitamin E there was an increased risk of heart failure. Now we’ve got evidence that not only there is no benefit, but there is harm.

Preliminary research suggests vitamin E may aid in the preservation of cognitive function in Alzheimer’s disease. So, we’ve got some studies suggesting that this vitamin is good and others suggesting no.

A recent study by the American Cancer Society indicated that those who take vitamin E for 10 years can reduce the risk of bladder cancer. Observational studies suggest that maybe vitamin E and selenium together might be able to prevent prostate cancer. The SELECT study, however, which stands for Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial, demonstrated that this combination is not effective as a prevention strategy.

We get again here this dichotomy of vitamin E. The bottom line is: get your vitamin E from food and stay away from supplements if you already have any vascular disease.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Vitamin K

Vitamin K, also known as the master coagulator, is an important fat-soluble vitamin. It was first discovered in 1929 by a scientist named Henrik Dam, who was researching the role and nature of cholesterol. Dam was feeding chicken with a cholesterol-free diet. After a few weeks, chickens on this diet started developing hemorrhages and started bleeding. He couldn’t repair these deficiencies by supplementing their diet with purified cholesterol. It appeared that a second compound had also been extracted from the diet, and this one was thought to be responsible for the coagulation of blood. Coagulation in German is spelled with a “k”, so, the mysterious compound was named vitamin K.

There are two primary forms of vitamin K. Phylloquinone (K1) comes from plants. Menaquinone (K2) come from animals and bacteria in the gut. There is also a synthetic form known as K3. What is the function of vitamin K? Its name comes from the German word for coagulation, and it is needed for the normal clotting cascade of blood by the synthesis of blood proteins. Vitamin K is also needed for the production of what are known as Gla proteins, which are needed for the normal production of bone proteins.

Increasing evidence shows that vitamin K may aid in the prevention of osteoporosis. It forms a protein which is found in cartilage and provides the framework on which bone is formed.

There is no true requirement for vitamin K, because we don’t know how much the gut produces. Although no recommended amount exists, an acceptable intake is 90 micrograms for women and 120 micrograms for men.

Vitamin K Deficiency and Toxicity

Vitamin K deficiency is common among breast-fed infants, because breast milk is low on vitamin K. If a baby is going to be born, make sure that baby goes to a physician relatively early and gets a vitamin K injection to prevent poor clotting.

Vitamin K can interfere with anticoagulant drugs. Antibiotics kill the bacteria that can make vitamin K, so anybody taking chronic antibiotic therapy is going to be unable to synthesize vitamin K in the gut.

There is no known toxicity of vitamin K.

Foods High in Vitamin K

1 cup kale1000 micrograms
1 cup spinach880 micrograms
1 cup cabbage73 micrograms
1 cup broccoli155 micrograms
1 cup brussels sprouts218 micrograms
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