How to Figure Out If Your Supplements Are Safe

Supplements aren’t regulated like drugs. Their makers don’t have to prove that they’re safe or effective. Let’s talk about some of the pitfalls of using supplements, and how you can improve your chances of getting a pill that does what it’s supposed to.

Source: How to Figure Out If Your Supplements Are Safe

I recently witness a cashier at the local supermarket question a guy in his 20s about buying garlic supplements.  An actual garlic bulb costs less than a dollar – the supplement container was probably $5+, and it’s highly questionable that the supplement contained anything of value.  Seriously…

Selenium, Vitamin E Supplements Increase Prostate Cancer Risk

When the SELECT trial started in 2001, there were high hopes it would prove that taking vitamin E or selenium could help prevent prostate cancer. The newest results from the trial show just the opposite—that taking selenium or vitamin E can actually increase the odds of developing prostate cancer.

Bottom line: men shouldn’t take selenium or vitamin E as a way to prevent prostate cancer, or anything else for that matter.

Although SELECT was supposed to last until 2011, it was stopped three years early because neither vitamin E nor selenium were showing any benefit—and there were hazy warning signs they might be doing some harm.

Source: Selenium, vitamin E supplements increase prostate cancer risk

There’s no mention of the quality of the supplements – some are just asparagus and lies, and/or could contain a ‘Amphetamine-like’ compound.  But the fact the study was stopped early is damning.

There’s nothing about if natural sources were better.

Should Pregnant Women Eat More Tuna?

As part of a sweeping review of nutrition recommendations, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee recently reiterated the current seafood guidelines: Americans should eat a wide variety of seafood. The report also acknowledges the risk of mercury exposure from certain kinds of seafoods, and notes that women who are pregnant, nursing or may become pregnant should avoid certain kinds — tilefish, shark, swordfish and king mackerel — because of their high mercury content.

The panel withheld a recommendation about tuna, second only to shrimp in popularity in the United States. Current guidelines from the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency warn pregnant and nursing women to limit tuna consumption to six ounces per week.

Source: Should Pregnant Women Eat More Tuna?

From reading the article, it does seem like a promotion for tuna/seafood.  Flaxseeds and walnuts are a far better source, and have a better shelf life.  Iodine?  That’s what in common table salt, for sake of the fact that most diets are iodine deficient.  Vitamin B12 is the most difficult to source of the B vitamins, depending on your diet (IE vegan).

Vegemite, Marmite: Do They Have Vitamin K?

This took a little digging, but in a 1 teaspoon (6 grams) serving there is either no vitamin K, or it is so small it does not warrant mention.  So you can eat a fair amount of it without concern, but I would still not recommend consuming an entire container to yourself in a single sitting unless you already do that regularly, and your INR has been relatively stable.

To those unaware, both vegemite and marmite are made with brewer’s yeast extract.  Vegemite is Australian/New Zealand, while marmite is British/UK.  Either is a spread you’d apply to toast. As I remember, either tastes like sadness but I digress…

Marmite/vegemite is an acquired taste for most, but it is incredibly healthy.  Very low in saturated fat, cholesterol and calories (9 calories per serving). And a good source of protein, iron and selenium, and a very good source of thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, magnesium and potassium.  The warning about sodium is outdated – there’s no relationship between sodium and heart disease.

Vegemite/marmite is also vegetarian, and vegan.  However some of the key ingredients of vegemite/marmite are malt extract derived from barley and yeast extract, from yeast grown on barley and wheat.  Therefore either is not gluten free.

Vegemite/marmite contains MSG, which is not the health risk myth that still persists.  But if you have an allergy to yeast, or are prone to yeast infections (IE: thrush) – consuming vegemite/marmite is not a good idea.  Allergic reactions to baker’s yeast may include a congested/runny nose and inflammation/itching of the skin.

Know Which Fish Are Low in Mercury

Direct link to infographic.

When you grill a piece of salmon or have a fish taco for lunch, you’re getting a good source of high-protein food that provides important nutrients. And if you’re a woman who is pregnant or nursing, that fish contains important fuel for your baby’s brain development.

In fact, fish is seen as such a beneficial food that the Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency recently came out with proposed new guidelines recommending that women of childbearing age and young children eat more of it. But if Americans follow those guidelines without careful attention to which species they are consuming, they could end up taking in too much mercury. (Learn how mercury gets into fish.)

Source: Can eating the wrong fish put you at higher risk for mercury exposure?

Avoiding fish because of fear of mercury exposure may actually be more harmful than eating it. This is because fish is very high in selenium which binds mercury. Most fish has so much selenium that it will bind whatever mercury is in the fish with enough left over to help protect against exposure from other sources.  Supplemental reading: Is eating fish safe? A lot safer than not eating fish!

Why do we say “tuna fish” when we don’t say “chicken bird”?