Monthly Archives: February 2014

New Zealand is ‘Wellness’

We are half way (3 weeks) through our current “holiday of a lifetime”. It began with 5 days in Fiji (Bula! Bula!) – a ‘well’ land indeed.

Just 2 weeks in New Zealand (with 3 more to go) has confirmed that this country possesses a special “wellness”. New Zealand is small:  the size of Colorado or the UK + Ireland, but has only 4.4 million inhabitants – and, yes, far more sheep! It is everything it is cracked up to be and more, much more.

On our bucket list for many years, we finally turned the dream that became a goal into a plan, a commitment, and here we are.

Why has NZ been on our bucket list for so long? For all the right reasons: glowing reports from friends, meeting Kiwis (who speak like Aussies, but have something … special), loving the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Hobbit films – these are just a few.

What does this have to do with “Wellness”? Everything! Wellness is a whole state of mind and body that exudes vitality, joy and ‘joie de vivre’ (or as we say ‘living life to the plus’). New Zealand empowers this state of wellness – for tourists like us and for the Kiwis themselves.

In Christchurch, devastated by the earthquakes of 2011 (the third anniversary of ‘the big one’ was 3 days ago), the spirit of wellness pervades the people and the place – even though they have 20 years of rebuilding and restoration to look forward to.

JRR Tolkien’s books and his mythical stories could have been written for and about NZ. Even the Kiwis themselves possess something of the Hobbit spirit. The countryside is exactly what Tolkien imagined. An excellent Lord of the Rings locations guidebook, purchased in Christchurch, gives deeper insights into Peter Jackson and his crew’s choice of locations, filming and experience all over this amazing country.

Having Vegemite on toast most mornings is my gesture towards NZ nutritional ‘wellness’!

I will return to this subject in a few weeks with more observations; but, for now, here are some of the adjectives Jenny and I have listed to describe NZ and the Kiwis: majestic, mythical, civilized, unhurried, savvy, simple, vibrant, verdant, … all (you might say), elements of ‘wellness’.

Each day we post a selection of photos (to keep our friends and family informed and to keep our memories fresh). We are so grateful and blessed that we can hike and fully enjoy this amazing country at our age: another marker of ‘wellness’.

Jenny has started her NZ Journal

This was us on Valentine’s Day (Mt. Cook in the background). Today we are on the other side, on the Coast (west coast of South Island).

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Common Misconceptions about Vitamins

vitaminsThere are many misconceptions about vitamin supplements and the health benefits they offer. Vitamins themselves play an important role in keeping the body healthy. However, taking large doses of certain vitamins can actually be harmful. For most people, it is best to get the vitamins our bodies need from eating a variety of healthy, unprocessed foods, rather than by taking supplements.

Vitamin supplements are frequently misused and taken without professional advice. They are often used as a form of medicine to treat ailments such as colds, or to counteract lifestyle issues such as stress. Contrary to popular belief, vitamins aren’t drugs or miracle cures. They are organic compounds that participate in various metabolic functions. High-dose supplements should not be taken unless recommended under medical advice.

Balancing vitamin intake

Proper balance and adequate levels of essential nutrients is important for a range of complex processes in our body. When vitamins are taken as supplements, they are introduced into the body at levels that could never be achieved by eating even the healthiest of diets.

Supplementation can also result in large doses of a single vitamin being eaten ‘alone.’ When vitamins are consumed in food, they have many companions to help them along the way. For instance, provitamin A (beta-carotene) in food is accompanied by hundreds of its carotenoid relatives.

Simply taking a vitamin pill is not an instant fix for feeling run down or lacking in energy. It is the combination of a whole range of compounds (most of which we probably don’t even know about) in plant foods that gives us the protection. When you artificially remove one of them and provide it completely out of context, it may not be as effective and, in the case of some vitamins, can have negative effects.

Recommended dietary intakes

Many people mistakenly believe that since small amounts of vitamins are good for you, then large amounts must be better. In the case of vitamins, it is better to follow the rule of ‘less is more’. The vitamins A, D, E and K are fat soluble, which means they can be stored in the body. Taking high doses of these vitamins, especially vitamin A, over a long period of time can result in harmful levels in the body unless you have a medically diagnosed deficiency.

Some of the water soluble vitamins can also cause side effects in high doses. For instance, vitamin B6 has been linked with nerve damage when taken in large doses.

For a healthy adult, if supplements are used, they should generally be taken at levels close to the recommended dietary intake (RDI). High-dose supplements should not be taken unless recommended under medical advice.

Deficiencies and illness

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The human body is able to store vitamins. The fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K can be locked away in the liver and body fat, and stored for a long time. The water soluble vitamins, including B-complex and vitamin C, are mostly only stored for a shorter period of time.

A vitamin deficiency takes weeks or months before it will affect your health. For instance, it would take months of no vitamin C before you developed scurvy. An occasional lapse in good eating will not harm you if your usual diet consists of a wide variety of fresh foods.

When supplements may be required

Supplements do have a role to play for some groups of people. For instance, people on long-term restrictive weight loss diets or people with malabsorption problems, such as diarrhoea, coeliac disease, cystic fibrosis or pancreatitis, can benefit from supplements.

Folic acid supplements are strongly recommended for women planning a pregnancy to reduce the risk having a baby with neural tube defects, like spina bifida. Also, people who follow vegan diets, especially if pregnant, can benefit from vitamin B12 supplements.

People who are advised by their doctor that they need to take vitamin supplements are encouraged to consult a dietitian, who can work with their doctor to provide dietary advice related to the person’s situation. If you need to take a supplement, it is best to take multivitamins at the recommended dietary level, rather than single-nutrient supplements or high-dose multivitamins.

The common cold and vitamin C

Many people think that vitamin C helps prevent the common cold (this was me years ago – more out of desperation than knowledge). Despite exhaustive research across the world, there is still no evidence to prove this. Some studies have shown that taking large doses of vitamin C (more than 1,000 mg per day) continuously or when you first develop cold symptoms may ease some of the symptoms and the duration – on average, making it about half a day shorter. It does not prevent you catching a cold.

Adults need about 45 mg of vitamin C per day and any excess amount is excreted. You need to consider the health risks associated with taking large doses of vitamin C. Large doses may cause nausea, abdominal cramps, headaches, fatigue, kidney stones and diarrhoea. It may also interfere with your body’s ability to process (metabolise) other nutrients. For example, it could lead to dangerously raised levels of iron.

Excessive amounts of vitamin C in the body can also interfere with medical tests, such as diabetes tests, giving a false result.

Stress, depression and anxiety

Some vitamin and omega-3 fatty acid deficiencies can lead to emotional disturbances. However, if you are feeling run down, it is more likely to be due to stress, depression or unhealthy lifestyle habits (such as insufficient sleep or smoking), rather than a vitamin deficiency.

Feeling under pressure doesn’t automatically lead to a vitamin deficiency, so taking a vitamin supplement won’t necessarily make the stressful feelings go away. More serious mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, aren’t caused or prevented by vitamins, although a healthy diet and good nutrient intake can help support a person to better cope with their condition.

Vitamin E and heart disease

Vitamin E is widely promoted as a beneficial antioxidant that can help prevent heart disease. Unfortunately, several large-scale reviews have conclusively found no evidence that vitamin E supplements prevent death from heart disease.

Cancer and vitamins

Vitamin A in large doses does not cure cancer and can be toxic, particularly if taken as pills rather than food. There is some evidence that vitamin E could play a small role in preventing some cancers although, equally, there is evidence that it could accelerate the onset of other types of cancer. This has not been proved or disproved.

While it is argued by some that megadoses of antioxidants can help with the effectiveness of conventional cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy, the evidence is far from supporting this. In fact, it has been shown that megadoses of antioxidants can actually interfere with some medical treatments of cancer by helping to protect the cancer cells that the therapies aim to destroy.

Some research findings

A number of studies into supplement use have shown negative findings. For instance:

  • Vitamin A (beta-carotene) was thought to reduce the risk of some cancers, but has been linked to an increase in others, such as lung cancer in smokers, if taken in supplement form.
  • Several long-term studies have shown that prostate, breast and lung cancer risk are not decreased by taking high-dose supplements containing vitamins E or C or selenium.
  • People taking high-dose vitamin E supplements have been found to have higher rates of early death (mortality).

Anti-aging vitamins

Vitamin E is often singled out as the potential fountain of youth. However, there is no evidence that taking large doses of any vitamin can either stall or reverse the effects of ageing. Neither can any one vitamin restore a flagging sex drive or cure infertility.

Vitamins and chronic disease

In developed countries, vitamin deficiency is rare, but the inadequate intake of some vitamins is not so rare and has been linked to a number of chronic diseases. These include cardiovascular disease, cancer and osteoporosis.

There is ongoing research to study the effects of taking vitamin supplements to prevent chronic disease, and evidence around nutrition and diet is constantly changing. It is important you consult with your doctor before taking vitamin supplements in high doses.

Things to remember

  • Vitamins are not drugs or miracle cures.
  • Taking large doses of vitamins can be harmful because your body only needs vitamins in very tiny amounts.
  • Eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, wholegrains and cereals will give your body the vitamins it needs, at the right level and in the right balance.
  • Vitamin supplements can’t replace a healthy diet, but a general multivitamin may help if your diet is inadequate.
  • People who may need vitamin supplements include pregnant and breastfeeding women, people who consume alcohol in amounts over the recommended level, drug users and the elderly.

Read the original article.

Remember that Juice Plus+ is whole-food based, containing the essential ingredients of all 26 fruits, vegetables and berries used in its production.

B12 supplements may contain cyanide

99% Of The Vitamin B12 On The Market Contains Cyanide

Unknown to most consumers, cyanide is found in a wide range of vitamins and foods in a form known as cyanocobalamin.  Fortunately the cyanide has a very low potential to do harm because it is organically bound to cobalamin (vitamin b12) — that is, as long as everything is working correctly and that person hasn’t already been burdened with environmental chemical exposures from cyanide, and related xenobiotic compunds.

Cyanocobalamin is actually found in 99% of the vitamins on the market which contain B12, as it is relatively cheap (recovered from activated sewage sludge or produced through total chemical synthesis), and stable (non-perishable). Despite its wide usage, it is not an ideal form of vitamin b12, as the cyanide must be removed from the cobalamin before it can perform its biological indispensable roles within the body. While there is plenty of research on the potential value of cyanide-bound vitamin B12, it does have potential to do harm.

In fact, when a person is poisoned with cyanide, as sometimes happens following smoke inhalation, and they are rushed to the emergency room, what do they give them to remove the cyanide? Hydroxocobalamin — a natural form of vitamin b12 — which readily binds with the cyanide, becoming cyanocobalmin (which sequesters the cyanide and puts it into a form ideal for detoxification and elimination), which is then rapidly excreted from the body via the lungs and kidneys.

Those with a higher body burden or higher cyanide exposure, such as smokers, are less likely to be able to effectively detoxify the additional cyanide they consume through their diet or supplements, making the seemingly benign levels found in some vitamins and foods a real problem.

Indeed, this is not the first time the question of the potential toxicity of cyanocobalamin has been raised. As far back as 1992, a report was published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine arguing for its withdrawal from use in vitamin therapy. Another study published in 1997 in the journal Blood, found that cyanocobalamin “antagonizes vitamin B12 in vitro and causes cell death from methionine deficiency.”

Cyanide in non-vitamin form, of course, is extremely toxic and a poster child of sorts, among poisons. It only takes 6.44 mg per kilogram, or 1.61 mg to kill 50% of your average-sized (500 gram) rats through the oral route of exposure. The margin of safety (as defined by the LD50) for cyanocobalamin, on the other hand, is approximately 1,000 times higher.

An entirely different approach to maintaining adequate vitamin B12 levels is through supporting the microflora in the gut, as these beneficial bacteria are proficient in producing this indispensable vitamin. Lactobacillus reuteri, for instance, has been studied for its vitamin B12-producing properties.

Other dietary sources of biologically active B12 include white button mushrooms, spirulina and chlorella. The ideal supplemental form of supplemental vitamin B12 is methylcobalamin, which while more expensive, is capable of absorbing efficiently sublingually and is cell-ready as a methyl donor. It should also be noted that the drug category known as proton pump inhibitors (acid blockers for reflux) prevent vitamin B12 absorption and microwaving food deactivates this vitamin, as well.

Read the full article here.