Are Nutritional Supplements Necessary?

How many times have your heard that we can get all the nutrients we need from the food we eat? How many of you manage to eat the five servings of fruits and vegetables per day that are recommended? If you are unable to consume the five servings of fruit and vegetables that are recommended daily, you are not alone. Two thirds of Americans fail to eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables daily. Today’s active lifestyles make it virtually impossible to consume the perfect balance of different types of foods that is needed to obtain all the nutrients we need on a daily basis. Nutritional shortfalls exist for many nutrients in this country. Vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin B-6, folic acid, zinc, copper, calcium, iron, and magnesium are all lacking in the normal American diet.

A large nutritional survey conducted in 1994 showed that most American women are only getting half of the daily recommended intake of 400 micrograms of folic acid in their diet. Numerous nutritional studies also show that most of the elderly and most of the young women in the United States were getting less than two-thirds of the RDA of 15 milligrams of zinc in their diets.

Another nationwide survey showed that ninety-five percent of American women aged 18 to 44 were getting only a little more that half of the 18 milligrams of iron needed to offset the menstrual losses of this mineral. Studies of calcium intake have shown that 75 percent of all women over age 35 get less the RDA of 800 milligrams per day. This lack of calcium causes bone loss weakening the bones and causing osteoporosis. Calcium supplements can not only stop this bone loss but can also actually reverse it.

A study of meals served to students at 50 colleges found that the foods on the menu provided only 251 milligrams of magnesium a day- even though the RDA is 350 milligrams for men and 300 milligrams for women. Even if we only ate minimally processed organic foods, it would be hard to eat the amount needed to provide all the needed nutrients for optimal health. Especially since our ability to absorb and utilize the nutrients in our food diminishes as we age. Unfortunately, most of us eat a diet rich in highly processed nutrient deficient food.

Why is our food so nutrient deficient?

Well, it is mostly our fault. As consumers, we want picture-perfect produce. The food industry, thus, focuses on developing food that ships well, not on food that is nutritious. Tomatoes and lettuce are picked green and shipped in cold storage in order to appear picture perfect on the store shelves. Unfortunately, peak nutrition is achieved by letting the fruit ripen on the vine. Vine ripened tomatoes are proven to contain higher levels of beta-carotene, lycopene and soluble fiber than green picked fruit. Lettuce loses up to 46% of certain nutrients within 7 days of cold, dark storage. Most fruits and vegetables contain fewer nutrients today than in the past. Research by CTV, published in the Globe and Mail in 2002, reports that broccoli contains 62% less calcium, potatoes have lost almost all their vitamin A, and apples nearly half of their iron as compared to vegetables grown before the 1950’s. In fact, among the majority of fruits and vegetables tested, there was a 68% loss of Vitamin A, a 76% loss of Iron and an 80% loss of Calcium. Even if we were to eat our five servings of fruit and vegetables a day, we still are not guaranteed of getting the nutrients that we need for optimal health.

Main cause

The main cause of the decline in nutrients in our food is the conventional farming methods used to grow most of our foods. Conventional farming methods deplete the nutrients in the soil which also diminishes the amount of nutrients in the plants that are grown. Soil can be depleted of most minerals in as few as five years of growing crops using pesticides, herbicides, and only minimal fertilizer. Conventional farming replaces only those nutrients that are needed for plant growth. No attention is given to replacing the many trace minerals that are essential for animal health. Modern livestock producers understand this lack of minerals in the crops and always have mineral blocks available for their animals. They understand that these minerals are necessary in order to achieve fast growth rates and good health in their livestock. Unfortunately, few of us realize that this supplementation is also necessary for our optimal health.
What must we do in order to achieve optimal health?

We can’t rely on the modern American diet to supply us with the nutrients that we need so we have to find alternative sources of these nutrients. One solution would be to eat only organically produced foods, fruits, vegetables and meat. Organically produced foods are grown with no herbicides or pesticides. This eliminates the toxins from our diet that are known to accumulate over time. These toxins are thought to be the cause of many of the chronic diseases that are associated with aging such as cancer.

We are told to wash our fruits and vegetables before eating them in order to remove these toxins but consider this. Those pesticides and herbicides are sprayed on the whole plant and on the soil that supplies the nutrition for those plants. How does the plant absorb that nutrition? The nutrients are absorbed from the soil into the roots and up into the plant and into the fruit. Any substance sprayed on the plant is also absorbed through the leaves into that plant. How does washing remove the spray residue that has been absorbed into the plant?

Organic farmers also strive to improve the soil through the application of more traditional fertilizer as well as by crop rotation. Thus, the soil has more minerals with which to nourish the crops which are then fed to the livestock. The food that is organically produced will be much more nutritious because of these practices than conventionally produced foods.

Unfortunately, organic food is more expensive than conventionally produced food. This may put a total organic diet out of the reach of most people. Besides, we all like to eat out occasionally and organic restaurants are very hard to find if, in fact, they even exist.

Nutritional Supplements

So how are we to ensure that we get all of the nutrients our bodies need in order to obtain and maintain optimal health? Nutritional supplements can supply these nutrients and with careful shopping can be quite affordable. However, it is important to realize that more than the cost of a supplement has to be considered in order to get the best value for your nutritional dollar. Some supplements may seem inexpensive but if they are not absorbable, that is, if they are in a form that our body can not utilize, they are simply of no value at any price. For example, there is an antacid that is currently being advertised as a source of calcium. However, the calcium in the tablet is calcium carbonate which is only ten percent absorbable and requires a good supply of stomach acid in order to be absorbed at that level. Isn’t the main purpose of an antacid to reduce stomach acid? The calcium in the antacid serves no other purpose than as a filler as its bioavailability is highly questionable.

Many of the needed nutrients work together in the human body and, as such, need to be available in the proper proportions and at the same time. For example, in order for B12 to be absorbed, folic acid is required and folic acid requires B12 to be absorbed. If one of these nutrients is taken without the other, a severe deficiency of the one not taken can occur. Another example is calcium which is best absorbed in the presence of magnesium, vitamin D and zinc. As you can see, there is much to be considered when deciding which nutritional supplements should be taken. I can only urge you to, please, learn about proper nutrition and what your body needs in order to stay healthy. A lot of the chronic diseases of today are caused by nutritional deficiencies and, as such, can be prevented by seeing that you provide your body with the building blocks of good health that it needs. Our body’s ability to renew itself and protect itself is amazing- provided that it is given all of the essential nutrients, the building blocks that it requires.

Best Calcium Supplements? A Calcium Supplement Comparison

Caltrate, CalMax, PremCal, Coral Calcium, Calcium Carbonate, and Calcium Citrate)

With so many calcium supplements to choose from, how are you to know which are the best calcium supplements for you? Below is a comparison between AlgaeCal Plus and the leading calcium supplements on the market. (Caltrate, CalMax, PremCal, Coral Calcium, Calcium Carbonate, and Calcium Citrate)

All popular calcium supplements are inorganic or laboratory-made with the exception of AlgaeCal. Most calcium supplements contain neither trace minerals nor the clinically proven bone building vitamin combination of D3, K2 and Strontium.

Caltrate Caltrate is a very inexpensive calcium carbonate product usually sold with vitamin D2, the synthetic form of vitamin D which has been proven in clinical studies to be less effective than the natural vitamin D3 form (1a). It is in a tablet form rather than gelatin capsules, and tablets are a less bio-available delivery system (2a). The tableting requires many additives of questionable value such as “cellulose, crospovidone, FD and C blue No. 2, red No. 40, and yellow No. 6, Magnesium Stearate, polysorbate, povidone, sodium croscarmellose, starch, sucrose, titanium dioxide, triacetin”.

Caltrate contains none of the other clinically proven bone building ingredients such as trace minerals, magnesium, Vitamin K2, and Strontium. Also, the calcium form does not compare to organic, whole food, plant-sourced AlgaeCal. The price is very low, but it seems you are getting what you pay for – the lowest quality ingredients possible in the least bio-available form (tablet) along with a long list of additives.

CalMax CalMax is laboratory-made Calcium Gluconate together with Magnesium and Vitamin C in an effervescent powder form. This product misses the mark for bone growth because it contains none of the other clinically proven bone building ingredients such as trace minerals, vitamin D, Vitamin K2, and Strontium. Also, the calcium form does not compare to organic, whole food, plant-sourced AlgaeCal

PremCal PremCal is inorganic calcium carbonate from limestone rock with an insignificant amount of Magnesium. It is available in three strengths of vitamin D to accommodate varying levels of sun exposure. This product has been positioned primarily for fighting PMS. PremCal misses the mark for bone growth because it contains none of the other clinically proven bone building ingredients such as trace minerals, Vitamin K2, and Strontium. Also, the calcium form does not compare to organic, whole food, plant-sourced AlgaeCal.

Coral Calcium Coral Calcium comes from above-sea fossilized deposits, or below-sea dredging operations which vacuum the coral sands, mainly from Okinawa, Japan. Coral Calcium was popularized in 2003 by a television infomercial which was later removed by the FTC/FDA for false and unsubstantiated advertising claims. The product was not in question so much as the exaggerated claims of disease healing that were made.

Coral calcium is significantly different from AlgaeCal. To start with, coral is an animal and AlgaeCal is from a plant. Coral Calcium is heat treated to remove heavy metals, so all organic material is destroyed. AlgaeCal is live harvested and cold processed so it retains nutritional value. In fact AlgaeCal contains much higher magnesium plus it has 12 times more trace minerals per gram than coral calcium. Coral Calcium is offered in combination with many different ingredients, but never with vitamin K2 or Strontium, two of the best clinically proven bone health builders. No credible clinical studies have been done on coral calcium showing any therapeutic benefit. AlgaeCal has a significant clinical trial showing excellent results. Learn more…

Calcium Carbonate Calcium Carbonate is the most common source of calcium on store shelves today, claiming about 70% of the market share. It is cheap and readily available, and has been used with moderate success in many clinical studies, mainly for slowing bone loss in post-menopausal women rather than growing new bone to any significant degree as we are accomplishing in the AlgaeCal Bone Health Program.

Calcium Carbonate products miss the mark for bone growth because they typically contain few of the other clinically proven bone building ingredients such as trace minerals, vitamin D, magnesium, Vitamin K2, and Strontium. Also, the calcium form does not compare to organic, whole food, plant-sourced AlgaeCal.

Calcium Citrate Calcium Citrate is Calcium chelated (chemically bound) to Citric Acid in order to offer slightly higher bio-availability than it’s main competitor, Calcium Carbonate. It is generally more expensive than Calcium Carbonate but really misses the mark for bone growth because it generally contains few or none of the other clinically proven bone building ingredients such as trace minerals, vitamin D, Vitamin K2, and Strontium. Also, laboratory-made calcium citrate does not compare to organic, whole food, plant-sourced AlgaeCal.

To learn about an innovative Plant-Sourced Calcium Supplement called AlgaeCal please visit best calcium supplements References

1a. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2006 Jan;98(1):72-7. Epub 2005 Oct 20 Differential Effects of Vitamin D Analogues on bone formation and resorption

2a. Heaney RP. Factors influencing the measurement of bioavailability, taking calcium as a model. J Nutr. 2001 Apr;131(4 Suppl):1344S-8S

Choosing the Right Joint Supplement – Know Your Options

As a consumer, it can be hard to choose which medicinal and nutritional supplements are best for you.  Many, if not most, supplements do deliver on their promises; however, some are certainly better than others and knowing what to look for when choosing a supplement is extremely important.
For the purposes of this article, we will focus on one common ailment – joint pain and stiffness.  Joint pain, disability, and restricted mobility affect more than 40 million Americans.  As the U.S. population ages, it is expected that this number will more than double over the next decade.  These symptoms, once considered an unavoidable consequence of aging, are now being successfully treated by joint support products.  This is particularly true in the case of osteoarthritis. 
While some people are genetically predisposed to developing this most common form of arthritis, many people will develop degenerative osteoarthritis due to injury or overuse of joints.  The most commonly prescribed treatment for osteoarthritis pain is non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (“NSAIDS”), which provide temporary relief from inflammation in the joints.  This common treatment generally works for a while, and many people will experience no complications from the drugs. For some, however, the side effects are significant.  Increased risk of stroke, heart attack, and digestive disorders are only a few of the serious risks associated with taking NSAIDS. 
Nutritional supplementation offers hope for osteoarthritis suffers, without the risk of the potentially deadly side effects of NSAIDs.  The acceptance of joint support products by consumers has been steadily increasing due to their proven effectiveness, as well as their ability to promote and maintain joint health with little or no side effects.  Millions of people have experienced some relief and pain remediation through regular supplementation with various dietary products. Glucosamine, chondroitin, and calcium have been popular choices for regular supplementation for joint problems and bone strength, but each has drawbacks with respect to effectiveness, bioavailability, and tolerability. The often overlooked mineral silica is an attractive alternative providing similar benefits but without many of the drawbacks associated with glucosamine, chondroitin, and calcium. 
Glucosamine:  In general, glucosamine is an amino sugar that has shown moderate ability to relieve the pain of osteoarthritis and restore partial movement to affected joints. However, taking glucosamine derived from sea creatures may cause allergic responses in individuals who are allergic to shellfish.  Individuals with diabetes may experience elevated blood sugar levels if they inject glucosamine which may even raise blood sugar for individuals who do not have diabetes.  Pregnant or breastfeeding women are also advised to avoid taking glucosamine because little is known about its effects on this patient population. 
During research studies, gastrointestinal complaints such as constipation, diarrhea, and nausea were attributed to taking glucosamine.  Some study participants who took glucosamine sulfate also reported drowsiness or headache. In addition, glucosamine may increase the risk of excessive bleeding when it is taken in conjunction with warfarin; other anticoagulants or anti-platelet drugs; aspirin; or herbal products that reduce the blood’s ability to clot.  Finally, injecting it may increase blood sugar levels, thereby interfering with insulin and drugs or herbals that lower blood sugar.
Chondroitin: Chondroitin is a sulfate molecule that occurs naturally in the body and is believed to provide a different chemical from glucosamine that is important in the formation of cartilage; however, its effects are not understood as well as glucosamine’s. Some people believe that it may help keep cartilage healthy by absorbing fluid into the connective tissue. However, studies have not shown conclusively that chondroitin helps repair or grow new cartilage or even helps prevent cartilage from further deterioration.
Many chondroitin supplements are made from cow cartilage.  If you are a vegetarian or otherwise object to the use of animal based products, look for a supplement made from algae instead.  There have been occasional reports of mild side effects which include nausea, upset stomach, diarrhea, constipation, indigestion, stomach pain, and heartburn. Chondroitin is similar in chemical composition to heparin, a drug used to thin the blood; accordingly, it is theoretically possible for chondroitin to increase the effects of blood thinners. 
Chondroitin is often combined with glucosamine in many popular supplement products such as Osteo Bi-Flex, Cosamin and Estroven. The Arthritis Foundation recommends exercising caution in taking glucosamine and chondroitin for the treatment of osteoarthritis. Moreover, due to the popularity of glucosamine-chondroitin supplements and the apparent lack of reliable information about their usefulness in treating osteoarthritis,the National Institutes of Health funded a study to test the effects of chondroitin and glucosamine on osteoarthritis of the knee.  This multicenter, placebo-controlled, double-blind, six month long trial found that glucosamine plus chondroitin had no statistically significant effect on symptoms of osteoarthritis in the overall group of osteoarthritis patients.
Calcium:  Calcium supplements are widely popular and come in several forms including calcium carbonate and calcium citrate.  The primary difference between these two types of calcium supplements is the amount of elemental (or actual) calcium they contain. Calcium carbonate contains almost twice as much as citrate, which generally makes the carbonate form less expensive.  Calcium citrate is often recommended for the elderly because it may be easier for their digestive systems to absorb.  A recent review of calcium and bone mass studies found that calcium citrate malate has high bioavailability in all age ranges including young girls as well as postmenopausal women. 
Side effects of calcium supplementation include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, constipation, stomach pain, thirst, dry mouth, and increased urination.  Although it is well accepted that calcium supplements reduce the risk for osteoporosis, there is concern that high calcium dosages may increase the risk for hardening of the arteries and kidney stones.  High calcium intake can result in calcium deposition into soft tissue and can also impair absorption of other minerals such as magnesium, zinc, and iron.  If taking calcium supplements, you should not eat large amounts of bran or whole grain cereals and breads because they may reduce absorption of calcium.  Similarly, consuming alcohol, large amounts of caffeine or vitamin D, or using tobacco products may also impair the absorption of calcium.
Silica: Silica, also called silicon, is an essential mineral and potentiator of other minerals like calcium for bones; glucosamine for joints; and antioxidants for healthier arteries and cardiovascular function.  Silica is a trace mineral required for the formation of healthy connective tissue, bone, skin, hair, and nails.  Silica is also essential for collagen formation, healthy arteries, and regulation of calcium deposition in the bones.  Absorption is critical to its effectiveness because dietary sources of silica such as those found in food, horsetail, and colloidal gel (silica) products are very poorly absorbed because of their insoluble, polymerized forms.  For optimal absorption to occur, dietary silica must first be converted to organic silicon (monomethylsilanetriol). This form of silica has excellent bioavailability and is found in premium product offerings such as Orgono Living Silica. Unlike the other nutritional supplements discussed for joints, silica has no known side effects.
In addition to knowing the differences between each option available, here are a few other considerations to keep in mind when selecting a nutritional supplement.
Quality: Is the company committed to observing Good Manufacturing Practices? Does the product contain pharmaceutical-grade ingredients?  Does it contain the recommended amount of each ingredient to be effective?
Delivery: Form is important. Powders, pills, tablets, and capsules all have little “extras” that can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb supplements.  Liquid delivery of the supplement ensures your body can absorb the active ingredients quickly and effectively, without extra binders, fillers, and additives found in powders, pills, tablets, and capsules. 
Tolerability:     Is the product safe? Are there any side effects associated with the product? Have there been any drug interactions reported?
Reputation: Is the company reliable? Does the company feature testimonials from satisfied customers?  Does it have a negative reputation?
Customer care: This is particularly important in nutritional supplements, as many companies use independent sellers to distribute their product.  Is the company you purchase your supplements from an authorized distributor?  Do they stand behind their product?  Do they ship quickly? 
As you can see, there are many factors and options to consider when choosing a nutritional supplement for joint health. Being informed is the best way to decide which one is right for you.

McAlindon TE, et al. “Glucosamine and Chondroitin for Treatment of Osteoarthritis: A Systematic Quality Assessment and Meta-analysis”. JAMA 283: 1469-1475, 2000.

Clegg DO, et al. “Glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, and the two in combination for painful knee osteoarthritis”. New Engl J Med 354 (8): 795-808, 2006.

Do We Really Get Calcium From Milk and Dairy Products?

Soil is the original source of all calcium, which is then absorbed by plants and incorporated into their tissues. Animals then eat the plants to obtain their calcium and other minerals. There is sufficient calcium in plants to grow the skeletons of the biggest animals on earth such as the elephant. It is not hard to therefore accept that there is sufficient calcium in plants to grow a human skeleton. In fact most humans who have walked this earth have been able to grow strong healthy skeletons without cow’s milk or calcium supplements.

Calcium is involved in bone formation and nerve, muscle and blood vessel function. Levels of calcium are maintained by the gastrointestinal tract, bone and kidney. If our diet is low in calcium then more will be absorbed from the gut and less excreted from the kidneys. Conversely if excess calcium is consumed, less will be absorbed and more excreted. However there is the potential for a dangerous increase in free calcium.

Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the human body. 99% of the body’s pool of calcium is stored in bones (about 1 kg). Of the remaining 1%, 55% of it is bound to protein and organic ions. Only 45% is free (unbound).

Unbound calcium is particularly dangerous because it gets deposited in tissues, including arteries, and therefore increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. An increase of free calcium by 2% causes a massive deposition. Is there much point advising people to supplement with calcium when it ends up going to the arteries and not to the bones? There are implications against taking regular high dose calcium supplementation because it appears to be going everywhere except bones. Dolomite or coral calcium in particular is a problem as they are essentially finely ground up rock which is poorly absorbed with any that is absorbed usually ending up in tissues other than bones.

In Western countries the usual intake of calcium is around 800-1000mg/day while in developed countries it is around 300-500mg/day. Some women in Africa and Japan have intakes of around 200mg/day and do not get osteoporosis.

Most of the scientific literature supports the belief that the majority of the older population is massively overdosed on calcium and suffering from calcium toxicity. Excess calcium in arterial walls is directly correlated to increased risk of heart disease and chronic degenerative diseases. Many breast cancers have calcium deposits in and around them. Research on the use of calcium in preventing osteoporosis is not conclusive whereas the research is convincing that supplemental calcium fuels the progression of atherosclerosis and therefore heart attacks. Studies also show that calcium supplementation is unlikely to reduce the risk of fracture, either in childhood or later life. These studies also pointed out that populations that consume the most cow’s milk and other dairy products have among the highest rates of osteoporosis and hip fracture in later life.

Osteoporosis is NOT caused by an inadequate intake of dairy products. Populations in countries that do not have access to dairy products do not develop osteoporosis. Australia and the US are the 2 countries with the highest intake of dairy products and have the highest incidence of osteoporosis. Dairy foods do contain calcium but they also contain acidic proteins which cause a net loss of calcium from bone as calcium is pulled from the bones to lower the acidity caused by the acidic milk proteins.

Studies have found no relationship between the intake of dairy products and the strength of children’s bones and that postmenopausal women who consumed 3 extra glasses of cow’s milk/day for a year lost more bone than those who didn’t drink the extra milk.

The bottom line if you want to make sure you are getting your daily intake of calcium then get it from plants and nuts not dairy. Plants contain lots of readily absorbable calcium so if you are eating green leafy vegetables, broccoli or seaweed you are more than enough calcium.