NUTRITION AND EXERCISE: Vitamin and mineral requirements, what these chemicals do for us, exercise guidelines, and comments about health books.

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The last time I looked into nutrition and exercise was 1981. Back then no one was talking about anti-oxidants, eating fiber was going to cure the world of cancer and everyone was told to run 30 miles a week. Times certainly have changed. Deciding it was time to update my familiarity with these two topics I began a course of study and am using this page to record what I find. I hope any visitors find the information interesting but should note that I am not a doctor and am not in anyway connected with the medical profession. Nothing I say should be taken as advice, even though from time to time I use the term: "you." (In such instances the "you" is directed at myself.) This report is not intended to be comprehensive. All I'm doing is repeating information obtained from the following sources:

You, The Owners Manual, by Michael F. Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet C. Oz, M.D., Harper Collins Books, N.Y., 2005 (Prime source of nutrient requirements)

The Dr. Dean Edell radio program

The New Fit or Fat, by Covert Bailey, Houghton Mifflin, N.Y., 1991

Food Values, by Jean A.T. Pennington, Harper and Row Publishers, N.Y., 1989

RDA Website: http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/etest/000105.html

Vitamin Toxicity Website: http://www.chclibrary.org/micromed.00070510.html

The Perricone Promise, by Nicholas Perricone, M.D., Warner Books, N.Y., 2005

The New Encyclopedia of Vitamins, Minerals, Supplements, and Herbs, by Nicola Reavley, M. Evans and Company, Inc., N.Y. 1998 (Secondary source of nutrient requirements)

http://www.a1nutritionproducts.com

http://www.exrx.net

http://ods.od.nih.gov

http://lpi.oregonstate.edu

http://www.eagle-min.com

http://www.nutrition.org

http://www.jhbmc.jhu.edu

 
(This page is a work-in-progress and will be added to as new information comes available. The amounts shown are for adults as suggested by the sources listed. I.U. stands for International Units. Blank spots indicate areas I'm still researching. I do not mention the important and complex problem of nutrient/medication interactions. What follows assumes no medications are being taken.)

 
VITAMINS:

 
Vitamin A

What it does: Essential for proper functioning of all body organs and is particularly important for growth and healing.

Amount: 1,500 R.E. per day (This is according to You, The Owners Manual. The RDA is 1,000 micrograms R.E. per day.)

Natural Sources: Carrots, sweet potatoes and pumpkin, and most dark green leafy vegetables like beet greens, collards, dandelion greens, garden cress, kale, mustard greens, spinach, turnip greens, etc.

Toxicity: Because it's a fat-soluble vitamin it isn't washed easily out of cells and can build up to dangerous levels. Avoid getting more than 2,500 I.U. per day. At 25,000 I.U. per day in as little as three months orange skin and more serious problems can develop. Because it may cause kidney stones some studies claim that taking more than 1,500 micrograms R.E. a day could cause problems.

Notes: Vitamin A is a very confusing vitamin to make sense of as far as how much people need because the experts play shell game with units. They talk about microgram R.E. units (retinal equivalent units - that actual active vitamin A), I.U. R.E. (international units, which are 3.33 times as small as micrograms), and beta-carotene (what we eat that is converted to vitamin A in our bodies) of which only 1/6th converts to vitamin A. Many of the references use all of these interchangeably in a manner I found most confusing.

To the best of my knowledge, here's how all these terms relate:

1. The pure, active form of vitamin A is called retinol. Various vitamin A sources contain a variety of compounds that can be converted into vitamin A. To make comparisons easier, the different effectivenesses of each compound is measured in R.E. (retinol equivalent units) in other words, one food may have a ton of some vitamin A-like compound but after being absorbed and actually converted into vitamin A only 10 micrograms of retinol gets into the system. Therefore this food would be rated as having 10 micrograms R.E. Think of the terms "vitamin A" and "R.E." as referring to the same thing.

2. The food we eat contains 200 vitamin A-like compounds. Of these 40 can be converted to vitamin A in the body. Of these beta-carotene is by far the most active - so much so that all the others are ignored by many experts. Only 1/6th of the beta-carotene eaten is absorbed and converted to vitamin A in the body.

3. Vitamin A is measured in either micrograms or I.U. (International Units.) One microgram is equal to 3.33 I.U.

4. Most recommendations suggest 800 - 1,000 micrograms of R.E. per day for adults. That equates to 2664 - 3,330 I.U. of R.E. per day. Both of these refer to pure active vitamin A. To get these amounts from food, which contains the poorly absorbed and converted beta-carotene precursor of this vitamin, the average adult would need to eat 2,400 - 6,000 micrograms or 16,000 - 20,000 I.U. of beta-carotene. (This is easy to do - in fact diets rich in fruits and vegetables may get too much.)

5. Some nutrient guides list both micrograms R.E. and beta-carotene I.U., which I find easy to confuse.

6. Worse still, different guides state significantly different values. Jean Pennington's Food Values states a 72-gram carrot has 20,000 I.U. of beta-carotene. The USDA 17 states the same carrot only has 8,600 I.U.

 

 

Vitamin B6

What it does:

Amount: 6 milligrams per day (This is according to You, The Owners Manual, and is 3 times the US RDA.)

Natural Sources: Chicken, bananas, tomato paste, chickpeas, hummus, lentils, navy beans, potatoes, soybeans, others.

Toxicity:

Notes: Vitamin B6 comes in three main forms (pyridoxine, pyridoxel, pyridoxamine) and three secondary forms. The RDA in 1.3 milligrams per day for adults, increased to 1.7 per day for people over 51. The upper tolerance appears to be around 100 milligrams per day. Most supplements only contain the pyridoxine form. Low levels of B6 can limit the effectiveness of folate in reducing heart disease risks so some experts recommend taking between 10 - 100 milligrams of B6 per day in conjunctione with folate and B12.

 

Vitamin B12

What it does:

Amount: 800 micrograms per day from food or 25 micrograms from supplements (The 25 number is according to You, The Owners Manual, and is 4 times the US RDA.)

Natural Sources: Salmon, tuna, hamburger, lamb, bran, wheat flakes.

Toxicity: There doesn't seem to be one. Daily intakes as high as 2,000 micrograms per day have not shown adverse effects.

Notes: To date all vegetable sources of vitamin B12, including Spirulina algea and More' seaweed, have been shown to not have usable B12. What they contain is a look-alike compound that can't function like B12 and can cause a deficiency becuase it displaces it.

The body's ability to absorb B12 from food decreases with age. By 70 the only way most people can absorb it is from the supplement form.

Mild B12 deficiences are common in the elderly eating the average American diet, which provides 6 micrograms per day. It's estimated that 12 percent of the US elderly exhibit some dementia do to lack of B12.

Some patients with dimentia caused by a B12 deficiency may have blood tests that show proper B12 levels.

Absorbtion rates claimed for supplemental B12 vary from less than 1-percent to 60-percent depending on the study. It's not clear if the 6-microgram RDA is what you're supposed to absorb or what you need to consume.

Low levels of B12 can limit the effectiveness of folate in reducing heart disease risks so some experts recommend taking between 50 - 1,000 micrograms of B12 per day in conjunction with folate and B6.

It's hard to imagine how anyone could get the recommended 800 micrograms from food. That would require eating 84 small clams (one of the highest sources) each and every day.

 

 

Vitamin C

What it does: A powerful anti-oxidant that prevents osteoarthritis, boosts immunity, prevents bone loss, strengthens and repairs cartilage.

Amount: 600 milligrams twice each day taken with 200 I.U. vitamin E each time to increase absorption. (The 1,200 mg number total is according to You, The Owners Manual, and is 20 times the US RDA.)

Natural Sources: Oranges

Toxicity: 2,500 milligrams a day may increase the risk of osteoarthritis and DNA abnormalities.

Notes: The body can only absorb 600 milligrams at a time, hence the need to take the daily total requirement in two steps. Actually, the absorption depends on the dose. Ninety-eight percent of a 20 milligram dose will be absorbed, 50-percent of a 1-gram dose, and 16-percent of a 12-gram dose. Taking many smaller doses increases the total absorption.

Synthetic and natural vitamin C are virtually identical in absorption and use. While the RDA is 60 - 90 milligrams per day for adults, many experts recommend up to 1,200 milligrams a day. Some sources state that doses of 1,500 a day may encourage kidney stones to form in people prone to them. There is no RDA for people who exercise a lot but some experts recommend amounts of 100-300 milligrams per day for them.

Taking more than 1,500 milligrams per day results in the excess being excreted in urine.

 

 

Vitamin D

What it does: Promotes bone growth, prevents osteoarthritis, strengthens immune system

Amount: 200 I.U. two times a day.

Natural Sources: Milk (usually added), eggs, fish.

Toxicity: The maximum daily dose should be less than 50 micrograms or 2,000 I.U. per day. (Note: the size of I.U. for vitamin D is different than that for vitamin A.)

Notes: This is a hard vitamin to come by naturally in food.

Human skin produces enough if exposed to 10 - 15 minutes of bright sunshine three times a week.

The D3 form of vitamin D used to fortify milk and many other products is that same as that produced by the skin.

Recommended RDAs vary from expert to expert from 400 to 800 I.U. per day for adults over 50.

 

 

Vitamin E:

What it does: Decreases the risk of prostate cancer and increases the effectiveness of immunizations.

Amount: 200 I.U. twice each day taken with vitamin C. (The 400 total is according to You, The Owners Manual, and is 13 times the US RDA.)

Natural Sources: Nut oils, nuts, whole grains, and eggs. Peaches, avocados and broccoli are also good sources.

Toxicity: .

Notes: Contradictions abound on vitamin E. Some studies suggest it reduces or prevents heart disease, others indicate it could make things worse for people who already have heart disease Early studies encourage athletes to take a lot of it because it boasted performance, later studies refute this. Even the RDA has fluctuated over the years from 300 IU in 1968, 10 IU in 87 and 15 IU in 2000. Many doctors encourage taking between 400 and 800 IU per day. Making things even worse is that there are 16 different types of vitamin E. Here's the skinny on things as best as I've been able to find after researching mainly these two sites: http://www.a1nutritionproducts.com and http://www.exrx.net:

1. It's easy to get 10 IU per day of vitamin E from a balanced diet. It's impossible to get 400 IU a day without using supplements.

2. Vitamin E in food comes in four different types: alpha, beta, gamma and delta. Research indicates that maximum effectiveness comes from taking all four types. Taking only one, typically alpha, may not be effective.

3. Natural vitamin E in supplements is labeled as "d." Synthetic forms are listed as "dl." "d" type is more easily absorbed and more active than "dl." (One would assume that therefore it is better.)

4. Most scientific studies are conducted using only the synthetic "dl" type of alpha vitamin E. Consequently they may have questionable value to someone taking the natural type "d," especially if all four types are taken together.

5. Vitamin E also comes in an acetate form. The none-acetate form appears to be more active and better absorbed.

6. Some studies say that taking less than 400 IU per day will not provide the cardiovascular protection some doctors claim for vitamin E.

7. One study indicated that for people who already have heart disease, taking 400 IU per day may make things worse.

8. People have taken up to 1,600 IU per day for prolonged periods without suffering side effects.

9. One study indicated that elderly people taking over 200 IU per day may have more severe colds, though not more of them.

 

Vitamin K:

What it does: Aids in blood clotting, bone metabolism, and kidney function.

Amount: 80 micrograms per day.

Natural Sources: Green leafy vegetables, broccoli, canola oil, carrots, tomatoes.

Toxicity: The synthetic form K3 has been claimed to be toxic.

Notes: A fairly common and easy to obtain vitamin from food and almost any varied diet that gets 5-7 servings of fruits and vegetables a day should provide enough. Freezing may destroy it. One-half cup of broccoli, kale, or Swiss chard a day provides all the average healthy adult needs. One cup of raw spinach or lettuce is also enough. RDAs vary from 80 to 120 micrograms a day.

 

Folate:

What it does: Keeps blood vessels from becoming inflamed. Reduces the incidence of some cancers. This is a "B" vitamin.

Amount: 800 micrograms per day taken as a supplement or 1400 from food. (The 800 number is according to You, The Owners Manual, and is 2 times the US RDA.)

Natural Sources: Tomato sauce (take with a little fat to increase absorption), blackeyed peas, asparagus, artichokes, Brussels sprouts, sunflower seeds

Toxicity: Take no more than 1,000 micrograms of folic acid a day or it could cause symptoms similar to vitamin B12 deficiency.

Notes: RDAs are usually around 400 micrograms. It is found in most foods and is particularly high in whole grain wheat and cooked dry beans.

Folate can correct anemia caused by a B12 deficiency, but not the harder-to spot nervous system problems, consequently care must be taken when using folate to treat anemia.

 

Niacin:

What it does: Helps increase HDL, the good cholesterol, energy from food, hormone production, DNA repair.

Amount: 18 milligrams per day, 13 for women.

Natural Sources: Chicken, fish, beans, peanuts, beef, whole grains.

Toxicity: 35 milligrams per day is the recommended maximum.

Notes: This is vitamin B-3. It's quickly lost if cooked in water. There is usually enough in a varied diet.

 

Thiamin:

What it does: Aids in food metabolism, growth, nerve function.

Amount: 1.4 milligrams per day, 1.0 for women.

Natural Sources: Whole grains, meats, nuts, beans, peas, avacados, spinach broccoli.

Toxicity: Long term doses of 3,000 milligrams a day may cause problems.

Notes: This is vitamin B-1. Cooking destroys much of it. The average American diet provides a sufficient amount for the typical person.

 

Riboflavin:

What it does: Aids in energy production from food, growth, immune system, and hormone function.

Amount: 1.7 milligrams per day for men, 1.2 for adult women.

Natural Sources: Organ meats, milk, cheese, fish oil, eggs, dark green leafy vegetables.

Toxicity: No toxicity level established.

Notes: This is vitamin B-2. The average American diet provides sufficient amounts for most people. Any supplementation should include an equal amount of B6.

 

Biotin:

What it does: Protein metabolism, manufacture of genetic material, healthy hair. This is a "B" vitamin.

Amount: 30 micrograms per day.

Natural Sources: Eggs, whole grains, fish, nuts, beans, meats, milk.

Toxicity: No upper limit established.

Notes: Biotin is a tough one to calculate because the USDA 17 doesn't list it for many common foods. Additionally, values vary depending on the source. For example, Food Values, by Jean A.T. Pennington, states a whole egg has 11 micrograms while lpi.oregonstate.edu credits it with having 25. No one knows for sure how much is needed.

 

Pantothenic Acid:

What it does: Cholesterol and fatty acid metabolism, red blood cell health, adrenal gland function, nerve function. This is a "B" vitamin.

Amount: 10 milligrams per day.

Natural Sources: Eggs, peanuts, peas, meat, milk, whole grains, broccoli

Toxicity: Most sources state it is non-toxic at levels up to 1,200 milligrams per day.

Notes: This is vitamin B-5. The average American diet provides 5 milligrams of pantothenic acid a day.

 

MINERALS:

 

Boron

What it does: Facilitates calcium and magnesium absorbtion, improves bone health and joint function.

Amount: 1 to 10 milligrams (no RDA.)

Natural Sources: Plants.

Toxicity: Take no more than 100 milligrams per day, one source claimed the upper dose was 20 mg per day.

Notes: Insufficient data exists to determine what it does for humans or how much we should have.

 
Calcium

What it does: Needed for bone growth and repair, facilitates muscle contraction, nerve communication with brain, regulates blood pressure, reduces colon cancer.

Amount: 600 milligrams two times a day taken with 200 I.U. of vitamin D each time (600 milligrams if over 60 years old) and 200 milligrams of magnesium each time to increase absorption.

Natural Sources: Milk, spinach, nuts, kale, broccoli, and soybeans.

Toxicity: Daily consumption of 2,500 milligrams may cause kidney stones.

Notes: The body can only absorb 600 milligrams at a time, hence taking the daily requirements at two separate times. Caffeine causes calcium to be washed out of the system so take an extra 20 milligrams for ever 12-ounce caffeinated soda or for every 4-ounces of caffenated coffee. Take an extra 100 milligrams per day for every 30 minutes spent in sweating exercise. Avoid taking iron at the same time because it inhibits calcium absorption. Add 20 milligrams per day for every 4 ounces of protein consumed. These extra amounts may require it to be taken in three daily instalments. If so, adjust vitamin D and magnesium amounts to correct for this.

Calcium Carbonate supplements have more actual calcium in them than equally-sized calcium citrate pills so using the carbonate form may permit taking fewer or smaller pills.

The calcium in cow's milk is the best (most easily absorbed and used) form.

Calcium citrate/malate (not the same as calcium citrate) has the highest absorption rate of the three supplements and may may be more effective than the other two supplements at maintaining bone mass.

There are no scientific studies indicating that coral calcium has any special properties.

 

Chromium

What it does: Assists in sugar and fat metabolism.

Amount: 100 micrograms two times a day

Natural Sources: Meats, eggs, broccoli, whole grains cereals, oysters.

Toxicity:

Notes:

 

Chloride

What it does: Combines in stomach to make hydrochloric acid to digest food.

Amount: 750 milligrams per day (most adults get many times this from normal diets.)

Natural Sources: meats, kelp, olives, bread... any food with sodium will have chloride.

Toxicity:

Notes:

 

Cobalt

What it does: Part of vitamin B-12.

Amount: 1 microgram a day

Natural Sources: Salmon, tuna, hamburger, lamb, bran, wheat flakes.

Toxicity:

Notes: Insufficient data exists to determine what it does for humans or how much we should have.

 

Copper

What it does: Aids metabolism, bones strength, joints, blood vessels, immune system, acts like an antioxidant..

Amount: 2 milligrams a day

Natural Sources: Seafood, meats, nuts, beans, chocolate and whole grains.

Toxicity: 200 milligrams per day.

Notes:

 

Fluoride

What it does: Strengthens bones and teeth.

Amount: 3.5 milligrams a day

Natural Sources: Commonly added to water, available from meats, cheeses, cereals and most fruits.

Toxicity: 20 milligrams per day

Notes:

 

Iodine

What it does: Assists metabolism, growth and development.

Amount: 150 microgram a day

Natural Sources: Iodized salt, seafood and milk.

Toxicity: Take no more than 1000 micrograms per day.

Notes:

 

Iron

What it does: Oxygen transport, fatty acid metabolism, energy production.

Amount: 10 milligrams a day for men, 15 for women.

Natural Sources: Meats, whole grains, and dark green leafy vegetables.

Toxicity: I couldn't locate an upper limit, but heard on the Dr. Dean radio show that excess iron makes blood cells "sticky," increasing the chance of clots and arterial blockages.

Notes: Iron deficiencies are the most common nutritional deficiency, even though it is easy to get enough by just eating a healthy, varied diet. The iron in red meat (the "heme" form) is the most easily absorbed. The non-heme form in fruits and vegetables is poorly absorbed. If a diet is mostly vegitarian, increasing the daily intake to 33 milligrams may be recommended by some nutritionists.

 

Magnesium

What it does: Improves calcium effectiveness, improves nerve function, relaxes bronchial tubes, which can help with asthma, stabilizes heart rhythm.

Amount: 400 milligrams a day (333 for women.)

Natural Sources: Whole grains and cereals, soybeans, lima beans, most nuts, avocados, beets, dates and raisins.

Toxicity:

Notes: Daily requirement should be divided and taken with calcium.

 

Molybdenum

What it does: Protein and carbohydrate metabolism, iron utilisation.

Amount: 100 micrograms a day

Natural Sources: Milk, beans, bread, whole grains.

Toxicity: Avoid taking more than 1 milligram per day

Notes:

 

Nickel

What it does: Unknown

Amount: 4 milligrams a day

Natural Sources: legumes, spinach, lettuce, and nuts.

Toxicity: One reference stated the maximum safe daily intake is 1 milligram.

Notes: Insufficient data exists to determine what it does for humans or how much we should have.

 

Phosphorus

What it does: Strengthens bones, food metabolism, energy production.

Amount: 700 milligrams a day

Natural Sources: Meats, nuts, milk, cereals.

Toxicity:

Notes:

 

Potassium

What it does: Facilitates muscular action and reduces arterial aging

Amount: 3,000 milligrams a day

Natural Sources: fruits like bananas, avocados and melons. One average banana has 450 milligrams of potassium and one avocado has 1,000.

Toxicity:

Notes:

 

Selenium

What it does: Improves prostate health, decreases prostate cancer and other cancer rates 50 percent

Amount: 100 micrograms two times a day (This is according to You, The Owners Manual, and is 3 times the US RDA.)

Natural Sources: garlic.

Toxicity: Take no more than 600 micrograms per day.

Notes:

 

Sodium

What it does: Muscular contraction, nerve impulse transmission, energy production

Amount: 250 to 2300 milligrams per day.

Natural Sources: Primarily milk, most plant and animal sources only have a small amount, celery is one exception.

Toxicity:

Notes: The amount needed varies greatly depending on the reference. Because it is included in virtually every prepared food deficiencies are rare. Once, while experimenting on myself with low sodium diets, I was able to estimate that for every 1,000 milligrams of sodium taken my body retained 1 pound of water. Some references claim that the average American diet provides as much as 20,000 milligrams of sodium a day. Such high levels are cause for concern because the retained water, and other effects, may cause or exacerbate high blood pressure.

I recall one study or report that claimed the daily minimum was down around 250 milligrams but that this level was so low that it would would be almost impossible to maintain. Consequently, the government sanctioned RDA was increased not because of health issues but because not doing so would make adhering to it so difficult many people would give up and ignore the entire RDA system.

I seem to remember a similar comment about the RDA's recommendation that 25-percent of the daily caloric intake should be from fat. Some doctors argue it should be much lower but Americans are so enamored with fat that the politicians thought they'd rebel against the whole RDA system if it recommended they cut their fat to only 10 percent, a number some doctors support.

If correct, the above two cases would be a instances of politics interfering with the reporting of scientific fact... sort of like the congressman back in the 1970s who introduced a bill to officially make the value of Pi 3 instead of 3.14... to make it easier to learn and remember.

 

Vanadium

What it does: May assist enzyme action, bone and tooth growth, and fertility

Amount: 10 micrograms a day (no RDA.)

Natural Sources: Seafood, meat, whole grains, vegetables, strawberries.

Toxicity: Synthetic forms are easily toxic.

Notes: Insufficient data exists to determine what it does for humans or how much we should have.

 

Zinc

What it does:

Amount: 8 milligrams taken two times a day

Natural Sources: Seafood, meat, whole grains.

Toxicity: Amounts as low as 25 milligrams per day over long periods of time can interfere with copper absorption.

Notes: Absorption from high protein sources like meat is higher than plant sources.

 
OTHER IMPORTANT NUTRIENTS

Aspirin

What it does: Reduces the incidence of cancer by 40 percent, makes blood less sticky so clots are less likely to form and cause heart attacks or strokes, reduces arterial aging.

Amount: 162 milligrams a day (half of a regular aspirin or two baby aspirin.)

Natural Sources: Birch bark (?).

Toxicity:

Notes: If stomach problems develop, try taking a large drink of warm water immediately before and after taking the pill. Use quick-dissolving brands. Try buffered brands. Baby aspirin has been specially formulated to taste good when chewed. This means it's already half-digested before it gets to the stomach. I found the orange flavored brand Equate (available at Wal-Mart) to be the cheapest and best tasting brand.

 

Water

What it does: Provides the bulk of body's composition, lubricates the entire body, carries nutrients, prevents kidney stones, is the single most important material to ingest other than oxygen.

Amount: At least 8 cups per day, more in hot dry climates or when constantly exercising or in jobs requiring physical work.

Natural Sources: Lakes, streams, wells, faucets, grocery stores.

Toxicity: Too much can cause kidneys to be overworked. No information yet on what the upper limit is.

Notes:

 

Insoluble Fiber

What it does: Makes it easier for intestines to work properly.

Amount: No definite amount cited, but many sources claim that if you get 25 grams or more of total fiber it should be enough.

Natural Sources: Any plant material, particularly beans, whole grains and nuts.

Toxicity:

Notes: The main problem with eating as much fiber as the body needs is flatulence. The embarrassment issue is mainly linked to odor and sound. Odor is controlled largely by avoiding eating odor producing foods, mainly foods with lots of spices or those with large amounts of animal proteins that putrefy in the intestines. Sound is controlled by using the abdominal muscles to take pressure off the intestines so gas is released slowly and gently instead of all at once.

The total amount of recommended fiber varies from 25 grams to 60 grams per day depending on the reference. Whatever amount is taken, it's important to drink enough water to prevent constipation.

 

Soluble Fiber

What it does: Decreases heart attacks by 29 percent, regulates glucose levels and metabolism.

Amount: No definite amount cited, but many sources claim that if you get 25 grams or more of total fiber it should be enough.

Natural Sources: Mostly whole grains like oats, barley, rye and beans, peas, and lentils.

Toxicity:

Notes:

 

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

What it does: Improves fertility and joint function.

Amount: 3 grams per day

Natural Sources: Most nuts (walnuts are the best), fatty fish like salmon, canola oil, flaxseed oil, olive oil, avocados.

Toxicity:

Notes: Fish oil pills have an advantage because some of them use distilled fish oil that removes and contaminants that may have been in the fish. Eating 13 ounces of fish a week is usually sufficient. One and a quarter ounces of walnuts provides the required three gram daily ration. All other nuts are a tenth of this.

 

Lycopene

What it does: Slows arterial aging and improves prostate health.

Amount: 60 milligrams per day

Natural Sources: Tomatoes

Toxicity:

Notes: For maximum absorption the tomatoes need to be cooked and taken with some fat. The daily requirement can be obtained from 23 raw tomatoes, 2.2 cooked tomatoes, or 2 tablespoons of spaghetti sauce.

 

Sunlight

What it does: Activates vitamin D precursors to convert to vitamin D, prevents depression.

Amount: 10 to 20 minutes of bright sunlight per day.

Natural Sources: The sun.

Toxicity: Too much can cause skin cancer

Notes: In all but the most southerly states the amount of sunlight available during Spring, Fall, and winter may be too weak to be effective.

 

OTHER POSSIBLY IMPORTANT NUTRIENTS
(There is little or no random-tested, double-blind scientific data on the importance of these supplements but the sources mentioned in the bibliography above all claim the consensus among doctors is that they are helpful and don't pose health risks if taken in reasonable amounts.)

 
Alpha Hydroxel Acid

What it does: May increase skin cell replacement.

Amount:

Natural Sources:

Toxicity:

Notes: Topical application.

 

Cinnamon

What it does: May increase increase insulin receptivity 50 percent.

Amount: 1/2 teaspoon per day

Natural Sources: Most cinnamon comes from the bark of the Cassia tree.

Toxicity:

Notes: I seem to recall that there may be "true" cinnamon and that it is different from "Cassia" cinnamon. If so I don't know which of these is to be preferred.

 

Flavinoids

What it does: Anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, improves immune system, reduces aging in arteries.

Amount: 31 milligrams per day

Natural Sources: nuts, oats, tea (7 mg per cup), red grapes or grape juice (3 mg per 5 liquid ounces), orange juice, tomato juice (7 mg per 7 ounces), cranberry juice (11 milligrams per cup), red wine (same as grape juice), onions (4 mg per one small onion), broccoli (4 milligrams per cup.)

Toxicity:

Notes: I found researching flavonoids very frustrating. On one hand I located several references claiming that a varied diet containing at least 5 servings of brightly colored fruits and vegetables would have all the flavonoids needed, 250-1,000 milligrams a day. Yet the USDA 17 food nutrient guide values suggests that such a diet would only provide an average of 15 milligrams a day.

The problem might be that there are over 6,000 flavonoids in record and because many are chemically very similar measuring them is close to impossible.

I suspect, but have no proof or can provide no reference in support, that like some vitamins, flavonoids are most effective when as many different types as possible are taken together. Since supplements will only have a few while a piece of fruit will have hundreds, it may be better to eat the fruit than take supplements.

 

Lutein

What it does: May help maintain sight.

Amount:

Natural Sources: Corn, spinach, green leafy vegetables.

Toxicity:

Notes:

 

Indole-3 Carbinol or Sulforaphine

What it does: May reduce cancer incidence as much as 50 percent.

Amount: 1/2 cup of brassica vegetables per day.

Natural Sources: Broccoli, Brussels's sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower.

Toxicity:

Notes:

 

Glucosamine Sulfate and Chondritin

What it does: May increase cartilage growth/repair, joint fluid, improves ligaments.

Amount: 1,500 milligrams per day of the glucosamine and 1,200 milligrams of the Chondritin.

Natural Sources:

Toxicity:

Notes: Many brands have much less than the amount claimed on the labels. Triple Flex, Osteo-Biflex, and Cosaimrn DS have tested out at 75 to 90 percent of what was claimed on their labels. One reference supported the brand Flexicose, claiming it also contained 14 joint protecting compounds.

In addition to the references cited above, I asked three doctors about this. Two said they had documented proof that it helps. One said there was no documented proof available. They all agreed that taking it represented no health risk.

In rare cases taking these may cause gas and softened stools.

Avoid glucosamine sulfate KCL and glucosamine sulfate NaCl, the extra chemicals add weight and bulk to pills that displace the amount of actual glucosamine in the pill.

Tablets are claimed to have low absorptivity. Liquids and liquids-filled capsules have higher absorptivity.

 

L-anginim and L-Cirulline

What it does: May improve blood flow.

Amount: 2 grams of L-Anginim and 500 milligrams of L-Cirulline taken twice each day.

Natural Sources: Pumpkin seeds, almonds, cocoa, real chocolate, garbonzo beans, peanuts, salmon, soy products, walnuts.

Toxicity:

Notes:

 

Saw Palmetto

What it does: May reduce benign prostate enlargement.

Amount: 160 milligrams per taken twice a day with beta sitosterol.

Natural Sources: The saw palmetta plant is a dwarf palm tree or bushg that grows wild in most parts of Florida. The extract is taken from the berries of the plant.

Toxicity:

Notes: Like many non-regulated supplements, quality varies greatly with brand. Most references stated that extracts are more consistent than raw product, and that super critical CO2 extraction is better than chemical hexane extraction. The following companies were found by Consumer Reports to provide good quality saw palmetto in their pills:

CVS Premiun Quanity Herbs, GNC Herbal and Standardized saw palmetto, Solaray, One-a-Day Prostate health, Nature's Herbs, Quantera Prostate Saw Palmetto, Your Life Saw Palmetto standardized, Shaklee.

A different reference claimed the following were good:

Permixon, Prostater, Inc., Advantage nutrition, NuNaturals, Puritan's Pride, Saw Palmetto Harvest Co., Trader Joe's.

It concerns me that no company showed up on both lists.

 

L-Carnitine

What it does: May improve cognitive power for older people.

Amount: 1,500 milligrams per day for those over 60.

Natural Sources: A 3-ounce piece of beef has around 80 milligrams of it, 3 ounces of pork 24, fish 5, and chicken 3.

Toxicity: Does of more than 3,000 milligrams a day may give the body a fishy smell.

Notes: Absorbtion rates vary from 16 to 87 percent depending on the reference. I could locate no sound research to support the claims for this chemical.

 

Resveratrol

What it does: May reduce DNA aging.

Amount:

Natural Sources: Red grapes, red grape juice and red wine.

Toxicity:

Notes:

 

Bromelain

What it does: May decrease joint stiffness.

Amount: 100 milligrams per day.

Natural Sources: Pineapples.

Toxicity:

Notes: May not prevent joint problems but may speed recovery.

 

 

ADDITIONAL NUTRITIONAL NOTES:

 
It surprised me to learn that there is no definitive answer for how much protein a human needs per day. The amounts I found varied from 30 to 110 grams per day for an adult man and slightly less for women. Averaging all the references, excluding the extremes, suggests that the average adult male weighing 175 pounds should get 60 grams of high quality (eggs, meats, poultry, fish) protein a day. This works out to about 0.34 grams of protein per pound of weight. For plant-derived protein this number should be increased to compensate for the fact that such protein is usually lacking one or more essential amino acids and as such isn't completely metabolized as protein. The amount of increase depends on the particular source. If eggs are rated as having 95 percent usable protein, then milk is around 80-percent, meats 60 to 80-percent, soy products 40-percent, most grains around 30-percent, nuts, peanuts and peanut butter 25-percent. It's possible to combine different vegetable proteins so that what is missing in one source is made up for by another. A classic example is eating corn and beans at the came meal. Here are some options for getting 60 grams of usable protein after cooking: 7 ounces poultry (no skin), 8 ounces very lean beef, 9 ounces fish, 7 cups of skim milk, 10 eggs, 4 cups of beans. Although I've double checked the figures I have to admit that these quantities seem very high. The New Encyclopedia of Vitamins, Minerals, Supplements, and Herbs recommends half these amounts. Clearly, this is an area requiring more research.

 
The healthiest fats to consume are oils highest in monosaturated fat such as olive oils, nut oils, canola oil and so forth. The amount of fat calories consumed per day varies with the source from as low as 10-percent to as high as 25-percent.

 
Transfat is formed when oils are hydrogenated to make them thicker or solid at room temperature. Transfat raise LDL, the bad type of cholesterol, and increase inflammation of arterial walls. Margarines and shortenings have as much as 4 grams of transfat per tablespoon. Soft margarines, made by using less hydrogenation, may have as little as 0.5 grams of transfat per tablespoon. Although the oil in peanut butter is slightly hydrogenated to keep it from separating and rising to the top of the jar, the amount is so small that 11 brands tested showed no detectable levels of transfat. The maximum amount of combined saturated fat and transfat is 20 grams (about 180 calories) per day.

 
Eating too few calories triggers the body to slow its metabolism. This is good if you are on a desert island and can't get enough food. It's bad if you're trying to lose weight on purpose.

 
Sugar or simple starches (white bread, white pasta, potatoes) are quickly absorbed and converted to glucose, which causes the release of dopamine with a drug-like effect. We like it and want more.

 
Over-the-counter hormone supplements are worthless because they are broken down and destroyed during digestion.

White tea made with hot, but not boiling water, containes the highest density and variety of antioxidants of any other tea, 3 times the polyphenols in green tea.

 
Eating too much protein increases homocystene levels in the blood, which damages arterial walls.

 
Twenty-four ounces of caffenated coffee a day, or the equivalent from other sources, may decrease Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. This will also cause significant calcium to be excreted.

 
Eating protein and oil may help regenerate the meniscus membrane i the knee joint.

 
High protein diets (1 pound of meat a day) may accelerate bone loss.

 
Eating food with melatonin (oats, rice, sweet corn) may help regulate the body's internal clock and aid with sleep. Similarly with the serotonin in vegetables, whole grains and skim milk.

 
Seventy calories of fat (6 walnuts, 12 cashews, or 20 peanuts) at the beginning of a low-fat meal can slow digestion so that the meal keeps the average person full and satisfied for 3 hours as opposed to 1 hour without it.

 
Eating many small meals throughout the day signals the body that there is plenty of food available so that it speeds up its metabolism. While this is true there are two problems with it. First, by eating many small meals I found that I'm constantly thinking about food and because of this am more likely to grab an unhealthy snack as I walk through the kitchen. Similarly, because I'm always eating I'm always thinking about food and restricting my caloric intake becomes harder. Second, I read that the digestive system works best in batch mode, rather than as a continuous processor. The stomach in particular likes to process food in discrete amounts. Snacking every hour may stall the process and make the stomach start all over with the result that some food may be delayed in getting into the system. If eating many small meals it may be necessary to make sure they are small enough and of a type that can be processed through the stomach before the next meal comes along. For myself I found that four balanced meals a day is the best compromise.

 
When selecting a treat, think about choosing those with the highest flavor and time-of-enjoyment relative to the number of calories. For example: a piece of apple pie can be eaten in less than a minute and yet contain 600 calories. One Hershey nugget can be enjoyed up to ten minutes if it's allowed to melt slowly on the palate, yet it only has 60 calories.

 
Many vitamins and antioxidants actually aren't individual compounds by members of large families of related compounds. For example: vitamin E in food comes in 4 different forms. The vitamin E in supplements is usually only one of these. Many references claim that the greatest nutritional effectiveness is obtained by consuming the entire family of each nutrient. For this reason it's usually best to obtain as many nutrients as possible from natural sources.

While folate has been shown to be effective at reducing homocysteine levels in blood, which reduces the risk of heart disease, maximum effectiveness is only achieved when taken with adequate amounts of B6 and B12. Rough guidelines are 0.4 - 1 milligrams of folate, 50-1,000 micrograms of B12, and 10-300 milligrams of B6 per day.

 
ROUGH GUIDELINES:

Eat when hungry but not famished (4-5 times a day.)

Avoid getting more than 25-percent of your calories from fats.

Eat between 30 and 60 grams of protein a day.

Consume 9 handfuls of fruits and vegetables every day

Eat one handful, 1 ounce, of nuts a day. (Walnuts are one of the best.)

Eat fish three times a week.

Get 3 grams of omega-3 fatty acids a day

Eat 10 tablespoons of spaghetti sauce a week.

Drink at least 64 ounces of water a day, more if hot or working out. The key is that the body should never be allowed to feel thirsty, if so it's a quart low.

Avoid saturated and transfats.

Avoid sugar, white bread, and high fructose corn syrup.

Calculate what nutrients are obtained from food and add supplements or other natural sources as needed to make up for deficiencies.

Get at least 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night.

 

EXERCISE:

Exercise is just like a vitamin: don't get enough and the body falls apart, get the right amount and it works at optimum efficiency, get too much and it falls apart. In the 1960s and 70s many health experts recommended that people should be running 25-30 miles every week. People who did so had unbelievably sound cardiovascular systems by the time they got into their sixties... they also had knee and hip joints that were all but destroyed. A lot has been learned from this generation, mainly that impact training can cause as much damage as good. Here's the latest, greatest, and best recommendations as of 2005:

Get 60 minutes of cardiovascular exercise a week, ideally in three 20-minute workouts. This level of exercise gets your heart rate up to the aerobic level, (220-your age in years) times 0.8. (For me that's (220-55) x 0.8 = 132 beats per minute. A two-mile jog at 5 miles and hour is perfect for me.) Doing more than this can cause damage to the arteries and if obtained from jogging or other high-impact activity cause joint damage.

If you're going to jog, do it correctly to reduce the impact of each step as much as possible. Run like a tennis player: land on the toes or ball of the foot and ease down to the heel absorbing the impact over as much distance as possible. (Heel-to-toe running may be more efficient but it's harder on the body.) Wear the best running shoes you can: you want a shoe with lots of padding under the ball of the foot. (In 2004 one of the top rated shoes according to Consumer Reports was the Addidas Supernova cushion.) If you can afford it, purchase a treadmill that has a built-in spring cushioning system in the bed.

For fat burning exercise use low impact exercises like walking or bicycling and keep the heat rate down in the (220-age in years) times 0.6. For me that's 100 beats per minute, obtained by walking at 3.6 miles per hour. You, The Owners Manual recommends at least 30 minutes of this a day.

After many years of jogging outside on streets and sidewalks, I started to experience pain in my right hip. I switched to a treadmill with a flex board and within two weeks the pain was gone. This sold me on the advantages of treadmills, especially those designed with shock absorbing base boards. I also discovered many other advantages to them: I'm always running in the shade, I can set up a fan to keep me cool, the house's air conditioning always ensures that the air around me is cool and dry in summer, and I don't freeze in winter. Best of all is that I set up a television, CD player, VHS player, and DVD player at eye level right in front of the treadmill so I have a wide range of entertainment options while I'm running or walking.

Note: it's almost impossible the exercise away the extra calories from a permissive diet. It requires a two-mile run to burn off the calories from a single, small candy bar. A malt or shake would require four miles and a large piece of apple pie five miles.

Lift weights three times a week. The goal should not be to develop a powerful physique. Doing so can place damaging stress on the joints and the entire body. Rather, it's best to develop a routine that works all the muscle groups to keep them in good tone. Unfortunately none of the references clearly states how much this is. Some, like You, The Owners Manual, by Michael F. Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet C. Oz, M.D., claim this only requires three 10-minute workouts a week. I find this hard to believe because time-wise it's hard to work each of the many muscles groups in that short a time. I find it hard to maintain any sort of tone lifting less than four hours a week. And please note: I am not a Joe Altas. I weight 175 pounds and am 6-feet 1-inch tall... just an average guy.

Free weights are better than machines because they also exercise small stabilizing muscles.

Many people enjoy listening to music as the run, walk, or cycle. There is an easy trick that can double the amount of energy you feel when doing this. Simply go through all your songs and copy those onto a CD or tape that have a beat that's at the same rhythm as your pace. The uplift felt when walking or jogging to a song whose beat is that same as your natural stride is hard to believe. I can be at the end of a fatiguing run when a song with the right rhythm and liveliness comes along and it seems to pick me up and carry me along. I can be dragging one second then charging ahead at very next. The most important thing is that the song much have a beat at your pace. Second, it must be lively. Third, the energy level of the song should escalate, without speeding up, as the song progresses. Shortening or lengthening your stride speeds or slows your running beat so you can adjust to a particular song. Here are some that I've found to be the best:

409 - Beach Boys
Listen to Your Heart - Roxette
Back in the USA - Linda Ronstat
How do I Make You - Linda Ronstat
Traveling Band - Creedence Clearwater Revival
Queen of Hearts - Juice Newton
Secret Agent (Man) - Johnny Rivers
The Only One for You - The Go Gos
Turn to You - The go Gos
Going to Make You Happy - Celine Dion
You're Nothing Without Me - Belinda Carlisle
I Feel Free - Belinda Carlisle
Jailhouse Rock - Elvis Presley
A Big Hunk O' Love - Elvis Presley
Surfing Safari - Beach Boys
Surfing USA - Beach Boys
Shut Down - Beach Boys
Rock Around the Clock - Bill Haley and the Comets
Great Balls of Fire - Jerry Lee Lewis
Johnny Be Good - Chuck Berry
Danger Zone - Kenny Loggins
Kyrie - Mr. Mister
Will You Be There - Heart
The Night Before - The Beatles
In The Mood - Glenn Miller
The Bug - Mary Chapin Carpenter
A Little Bit Me - The Monkees
Pleasant Valley Sunday - The Monkees

The following two songs are perfect for the end of a run when you need an extra burst of energy for the sprint to the finish line:

River Deep, Mountain High - Celine Dion
Livin' La Vida Loca - Ricky Martin

Finally, the very best running song I've ever heart is:

Twist of Fate - by Olivia Newton John.

I can be at death's door when this one starts up and in no time I'm charging ahead at full speed. Try some of these songs next time you go for a run and see if they don't turn another boring jog into an exhilarating experience. (The same thing works for walking: having songs whose beat matches your stride helps carry you along.)

 
Random comments

Sucking in your gut: This may be only my opinion but nothing looks more ridiculous than some guy, or lady, using his or her diaphragm to such in their stomach to look thinner. It looks more like they overtightened their belts. I'm all in favor of holding stomachs in, but only if done correctly to flatten the entire abdomen. I can't speak for women, but for male physiology what you want to do is tighten and pull in the lower abdomen, the area between the waist and groin. Doing this feels most like tightening those muscles used when trying to stop urination. Tightening those muscles may be difficult because more often than not people forget how to do so. I discovered a trick to learn how to control them. Take off your shirt and place your hands against a wall, move your feet back while holding your body straight until you are at a steep incline. (Be sure to do this where you're sure you can't slip or fall.) Keep working your feet back as you watch your lower abdomen. At some point the amount of gut sag will automatically tell the muscles of the lower abdomen to contract and you should see and feel them tighten and pull in. Push up and down with your arms to turn this tightening off and on a few times, noting how it feels. Then push off just enough to relax the muscles and try tightening them on your own. By getting close to the threshold where they tighten involuntarily they are much easier to activate. Practice a few times and the nerves will quickly learn how to tighten them on your command. Stand up and work at it until it comes naturally. Once you've learned how to do it try to remember to keep them tight at all times. When driving in the car I regularly work them by counting to 100, contracting the muscles in that area each count. Remember, crunches and leg lifts by themselves won't automatically give you a flat stomach. The only way to do that is to train yourself to hold your abdominals tight at all times.

 
Why it's so hard to control eating?: Animal and human behaviorists have known for centuries that it's easy to train an animal or human to do almost anything by rewarding them for what you want them to do and punishing them for what you don't want them to do. Now consider someone trying to lose weight by limiting how much and what they eat. If they have a bad day and indulge in their favorite foods, the pleasure they experience is like a reward for doing something wrong: not controlling their eating. If they are good and succeed in limiting what they eat, the negative feelings of deprivation and frustration are punishments for doing what they should be doing: controlling what they eat. In effect they are being rewarded for doing the wrong thing (eating) and punished for doing the right thing (limiting how much they eat.) With such a situation working against us it's no wonder controlling what we eat is so difficult.

 

Why old people get fat: They eat too much relative to the amount of exercise we do. Okay, so that's a no-brainer. The real question is why do they eat too much? Speaking as someone who at 55 is starting to qualify as being part of the older generation, I can tell you that one of the big reasons we eat more is that we're jaded. After what seems like countless decades of doing things, everyone gets to the point where they have done almost everything, and most things many times. There just isn't anything else to do that's interesting, exciting and rewarding. Worst still, we get used to doing new things so that something new isn't, of itself, automatically exciting. We're bored. Jaded. It's hard to get satisfied. But, food is always there. For very little effort we can eat a donut, or a piece of chocolate, and get immediate pleasure for much less effort than going out and finding something new to do. So we eat. Too much. With the result that we get fat. The key to avoiding this pitfall is to be aware of it so overeating doesn't sneak up on us.

 

How to eat less, or another reason why Americans are fat (look several articles down for the first): People tend to eat until they are satisfied. Watch the average American eat and it becomes apparent that how we eat is a major factor in our epidemic of obesity: we eat too fast. A small child eating cake takes a huge bite, chews it once, swallows the bulk of the bite whole (and untasted) and is stabbing the next piece of cake before the first hits his stomach. Adults aren't much better. They take big bites of burger and swallow before their taste buds have a chance to know what just zoomed by them. Worse still, we tend to eat while absorbed in other tasks (listening to music, watching TV, reading, talking, or working) which distracts us from tasting the food.

With so little tasting of our food going on, is only makes sense that we eat more in an attempt to make up for this lack of taste by increasing the quantity we eat. If we ate three times as slowly, it would seem we'd be tasting, and eating, three times as much food!

Try this test: next time you eat a hamburger, and I hope it's a Jack-in-the-Box Bacon Ultimate Cheeseburger without mayonnaise (please see my taste-test page), take the time to chew eat bite as long as possible and concentrate on the flavor. It can take ten minutes to finish it this way (instead of one minute the usual way) and the amount of flavor you get will be twenty times as much (ten times as long times twice as much taste equals twenty times the flavor) as the usual way. This applies to anything you eat. Avoid distractions, eat slowly by chewing each bite as long as possible, and focus your attention on what you're eating. Your desire for satisfaction will be reached with much lass food and you'll end up enjoying what you do eat more than the larger amount you used to eat.

 

American people getting fat: You can hardly turn on the television without having to watch some skinny newsperson announcing the latest study that American's are fatter than ever. What I wish someone would point out is that it's amazing that we aren't fatter than we are. Thousands of years ago man first threw a chunk of meat into the fire to cook it. Since then, virtually every cook who's come along has striven to make food taste as good as possible without (with a very few exceptions) consideration for how healthy it is. Consequently, much of the food available has been optimized flavor-wise to the point where it is almost drug-like in potency.

As if that's not enough, grocery stores are designed with the help of psychologists in such a way as to tempt customers to buy as much food, preferably high-profit junk foods, as possible.

As a population we are being seduced into buying and eating the foods everyone knows we shouldn't eat. If you're overweight and hate yourself for it... don't. Your weight problem, and the guilt you feel for it, are largely the product of our culture.

 
How Much Should People Weigh for Optimal Health and Longevity?

The Cancer Prevention Study II of the American Cancer Society followed 1,000,000 non0smoking men and women for 14 years and found that regardless of age and gender, people who maintained a body mass index of 24 lived longer and healthier lives than anyone else either heavier or thinner.

An article in the New England Journal of Medicine (Jan 27, 2000) citing a different research population reported that the optimal body mass index was 23.8.

Two other studies, which I regret to say I lost the references for, followed a total of 41,000 men for two decades and found that those with a body mass index of 23.9 lived the longest.

The close argeement between all the studies provides reasonable proof that the best body mass index to maintain for the longest possible and healthiest live is around 24. Higher or lower and the length and quality of live decreses.

So, what does someone with a body mass index of 24 look like? To the average obese American they look slender. Here's a few examples for men:

6-foot 1-inch tall = 180 pounds
6-foot 0-inches = 170
5-foot 10-inches = 165
5-foot 8-inches = 155
5-foot 6-inches = 150
5-foot 4-inches = 140

Reading between the lines of these reports I got the impression that the actual optimal weighs may be slightly lower, but people who weighed less did so because they ate less and may have suffered from monor nutritional defiencies. Someone getting the optimal amounts of all nutrients, whatever that may be, may be able to weight less and statistically live a longer and healthier live than these reports suggest.

 

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