For those of you who have been faithful blog readers, you know how strongly I feel against vitamin and mineral supplements based on the evidence. Even though I've read myriad studies showing the danger of taking nutrients in pill form, I never cease to be amazed at new research.
Yesterday was no exception, as I read the an article online by Prevention Magazine stating the danger of supplemental folic acid. (Read entire article here.)
Basically, it seems researchers are concerned that most Americans are consuming too much folic acid these days, since it is fortified in so many foods, and many people take multivitamins also containing folic acid. The problem is, several studies have linked supplemental folic acid (which not naturally occurring in food, unlike folate, which is found in fruit, vegetables, whole grains and legumes) with cancer.
One study, published in the Journal of American Medical Association (Nov. 18, 2009) found that people with ischemic heart disease who took a folic acid and B12 supplement for three years were 21% more likely to develop cancer and 38% more likely to die from cancer than those who did not take these supplements.
In another study, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found men taking folic acid supplements over seven years were more than twice as likely to develop prostate cancer verses men who didn't take folic acid.
On the flip side, folate found in whole plant foods, has a protective effect against heart disease and cancer. So let's eat better and skip the supplements!
Most of us fear osteoporosis and bone loss, yet how many Americans know its cause? Besides phosphoric acid (in most soda), high levels of sodium, excessive alcohol and caffeine, a leading contributor of bone loss is animal protein.
A study in the March issue of the British Journal of Nutrition found just that (click here to read the abstract for yourself).
In China, 757 girls with an average age of 10 years were randomly assigned to a group consuming cow's milk fortified with calcium, one consuming cow’s milk fortified with calcium and vitamin D, or a third group that served as controls and made no changes. Bone mass was measured at the beginning of the study and at 12, 24, 48, and 60 months. While calcium intake was positively associated with bone health, animal protein, especially from meat and eggs, was negatively associated with bone mineral density and content.
To quote the study, "It was concluded that higher protein intake, especially from animal foods, appeared to have a negative effect on bone mass accrual in Chinese pubertal girls with low (calcium) intakes."
Another reason why beans (and other legumes such as peas, lentils, nuts and seeds) are the best meat around: they've got calcium and many of the other nutrients needed for calcium's absorption/retention in the body, but the right kind of protein. They also have plenty of fiber, and we can all use more of that.
Just in case you didn't already know, the amount of fiber we eat prevents all chronic diseases including cancer and heart disease.
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition just published a study (March 10, 2010) that found dietary fiber is associated with increased leukocyte telomere length. Recent studies have found leukocyte telomere length (or the length of specific white blood cells) as a strong predictor of inflammation and diseases of aging, including cancer. The longer the length, the lower the risk of chronic disease, and vice versa.
This study also found smaller waist circumference is associated with increased leukocyte telomere length. Good thing fiber helps with weight loss too!
I was reading through the current issue of the Journal of Nutrition (March 2010), and came across some articles concerning the questionable benefits of probiotics (read for yourself here), which got me thinking, I'm tired of yogurt being promoted as a health food. Here's why:
Most people have heard that probiotics are beneficial for digestive and immune health, since they increase the beneficial bacteria, or "flora", in our gut. These "good bacteria" are responsible for improving immune function and keeping the levels of detrimental microbes (such as yeast and other pathogens) from rising. When we don't have enough healthy flora it creates a condition called "dysbiosis" which can and often does lead to Leaky Gut Syndrome. Leaky Gut means toxic debris from the gut and undigested proteins are entering the blood, which often results in food allergies and autoimmune diseases.
So, yes, healthy levels of good bacteria in the gut are essential. But do we really need to eat foods with probiotics, such as yogurt and foods with added probiotics? No. (Does the food industry want you to think so? But of course).
I know this might sound surprising, but in order to keep our levels of intestinal flora healthy we need to EAT HIGH FIBER FOODS.
The first reason a high fiber increases our beneficial flora is because the indigestible fiber itself works to clean out the intestines. It regularly (no pun intended) removes the toxic by-products of digestion, as well as viruses, yeast and other pathogenic bacteria. This is essential to avoid dysbiosis.
Also, the different types of fiber found in food, such as oligosaccharides, inulin and polydextrose, are known as "prebiotics", which stimulate the growth of beneficial intestinal flora. Prebiotics come naturally in the same foods where we find fiber: fruit, vegetables, whole grains and legumes (beans, peas, lentils, nuts and seeds). Prebiotics aren't added to foods as are probiotics, and you don't have to pay more for them.
So forget the latest marketing gimmick, and stop kidding yourself that yogurt is a health food. Keep your gut and immune system healthy by eating healthful foods.