Saturday, March 24, 2012

Do we need multi-vitamins? Pink Slime update

If you're currently taking or considering taking a multivitamin with a recommended serving size of only one pill a day, you're pretty much wasting your time.


It's very doubtful that any single pill can pack enough vitamins and minerals to truly make any real difference in complementing your healthy diet.

Producers of multivitamins have come up with some pretty amazing ways to compress natural nutrients, but not to this extreme… not down to where a single tablet provides you the vitamin and mineral levels you need.

A few weeks ago I wrote that whole fruit is superior to juice because many of the beneficial nutrients are stripped out.  Even when juices are fortified with nutrients like calcium they often are synthetically produced and don’t occur in optimal ratios for assimilation and absorption essentially making them unavailable for use by your body.

Similarly vitamin and mineral supplements are often synthetically produced.  These nutrients are also produced in isolation then they are just thrown together with little regard for their synergistic relationship with other nutrients as they are found naturally in whole food sources.  Certain amounts and types of nutrients need to be carefully measured to avoid any potential toxic buildup once they are consumed.

The bottom line... not all nutrients in certain amounts work all that well together. In fact, a sort of competition can occur between some nutrients.

You see isolated vitamins are partial vitamins, combined with other chemicals. They're a low-end alternative to whole, real complete food.

When you remove a part from the whole, you get 'Synthetic,' 'Isolated,' or 'Fractionated' pieces of the whole, but it's simply not the same.

There are four problems with synthetic vitamins…

1.     Nature intended for you to consume food in WHOLE form because all the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and enzymes are together in one package. They work synergistically to give your body the nutrition it requires for optimal health.

2.     Your body only absorbs a small percentage of an isolate form of vitamins and minerals - and it utilizes even less. You get the best bioavailability in whole food form.

3.     Synthetic vitamins often give you massive quantities of some nutrients (usually the most inexpensive ones) and insufficient quantities of others, not balance.

4.     You can experience side effects of synthetic isolates from the additives and the unnatural state of the synthetic supplement.

Remember that nutritional supplements complement the food you eat. They do not take the place of a healthful diet of unprocessed (preferably local and organic) foods, which I believe is still the best option for you to achieve optimal nutrition.

However, accessing and eating high quality foods regularly may be a personal challenge for you and your family. Your busy schedule may lead you to cook healthy whole food less than you know you should -- and eat "fast food" more.

Even if you do well with your diet choices, another factor involves the actual food supply itself.  Modern conventional farming methods deplete the soil of nutrients... nutrients that must be absorbed by plants in order to be passed on to you.  If the soil lacks nutrients so does the food and we eat food to get our nutrients.

This is when a supplement can fill in the gaps.  But it’s critical you know what to look for in a multi-vitamin.

·      Must AVOID additives or synthetic nutrients -- Only consider natural and whole food-based multivitamins.

·      Must be produced by a highly reputable company with the highest quality control manufacturing practices in place -- Focus on quality as a higher priority than quantity.

·      Must go beyond RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) and RDI (Recommended Daily Intake) guidelines -- In my opinion, RDA/RDI amounts define the lower limits of daily nutrient intake. You want the best nutrient formula to promote your optimal nutrition.

·      Must include the added bonus of essential minerals -- Minerals add their unique layer of nutritional support. Many high-potency multivitamins with rich vitamin concentrations lack important minerals like magnesium, potassium and calcium.

But it's also vitally important to know when to take your multivitamin. You should take your multi-vitamins first thing in the morning and with lunch, or with an early dinner to help optimize your nutrient absorption, the better chance you'll have of truly fortifying your diet.

To recap ideally we would attain all of our essential nutrients from whole food sources and that should still be the goal.  Eat a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables (eat a rainbow weekly!) and don’t get caught in a rut by eating the same thing all the time.  If chicken is staple for your family try some grass-fed beef or salmon on occasion.  Eat seasonally to optimize nutrient content of the food.  The farther it has to travel the more nutrients the food will lose.  In fact frozen fruit and vegetables are flash frozen and this helps maintain peak freshness and nutrition.  Grass fed non-homogenized dairy also is an excellent source for naturally occurring vitamins and minerals.

And remember that supplement do just that they should only serve to compliment your whole food intake.

Food for thought:

We have always been told take more calcium for stronger bones but consider this:

Taking elemental calcium supplements (with or without vitamin D) in amounts of 500 mg or more may actually increase your relative risk of heart attack by up to 27 percent, and may even increase your risk of stroke.

In order for calcium to do your body good, it must be in a biologically appropriate form and balanced out with vitamins D and K and other important trace minerals, as part of a total nutritional plan.

For more in depth analysis on this topic check out the following link:

Are supplements even necessary? The following study indicates long term use has no impact on quality of life:

Vitamin D is being touted as the next big thing for robust health but the following study indicates too much is not a good thing.  More specifically too much supplemental vitamin D is not a good thing.  Naturally occurring vitamin D acquired through sun exposure is self-regulating; your bodies will only produce what it needs.  The take away point is we likely need to supplement with vitamin D because of the lack of sun exposure during the winter but don’t overdo it.

This study supports my opinion (not mine alone of course) that eating whole foods is far superior to eating nutrients in isolation; there are some things science just can’t quantify!

Pink Slime Update:  The Power of the Consumer

The story of the use of “pink slime” in school lunches is only a few weeks old but the swift and decisive response from consumers forced the hand of the government and food retailers.

After an online petition gathered more than 200,000 signatures seeking to get beef with the filler banned from school lunches, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced this month that school districts can opt out of using beef that contains the byproduct, starting next fall when current contracts are up.

The voice of the consumer is also prompting grocery stores throughout Michigan and across the country to dump the ammonia-treated beef byproduct.

Both Kroger Co. and Meijer Inc. said Thursday they will stop purchasing beef with any of the filler, while Hiller's Market said it had never touched the stuff.

"Our customers are saying they don't want it, so we won't use it any more," said Frank Guglielmi, a spokesman for the Grand Rapids-based Meijer chain.

McDonald's says it stopped using beef with the pink slime in August. Wal-Mart and its Sam's Club discount store said it will start offering beef without the additive, while Whole Foods, A&P and Costco said it had never been used in any of their beef.

If you want better quality food for you and your children demand it and remember every time you make a purchase you are voting for nutritious whole foods or processed filler like the pink slime.  *

Phil Loomis
Youth Fitness/Nutrition

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Pink Slime Update

After a public uproar sparked by an online petition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Thursday backed off the federal school lunch program's use of "pink slime" by letting school districts decide whether to accept or reject the controversial beef product.

"USDA only purchases products for the school lunch program that are safe, nutritious and affordable -- including all products containing Lean Finely Textured Beef," as pink slime is officially known, the department said in a statement.

"However, due to customer demand, the department will be adjusting procurement specifications for the next school year so schools can have additional options in procuring ground beef products," the statement said. "USDA will provide schools with a choice to order product either with or without Lean Finely Textured Beef."

In a press release, the Agriculture Department said that it "continues to affirm the safety of Lean Finely Textured Beef product for all consumers and urges customers to consult science based information on the safety and quality of this product."***

Whenever people in lab coats are mentioned in an attempt to validate the safety and quality of a food product it’s probably not the best option for you or your children.  The best way to avoid this “junk” is to pack your own lunches and avoid all processed foods.  I am quite certain this is only the tip of the iceberg in relation to the quality and methodology of the school lunch program.  If you recall last month it was the revelation that French fires and pizza sauce count as servings of vegetables and now the pink slime is revealed, what’s next?

Once again action is driven by the demand of the consumer.  It’s truly awesome the passion people have when it comes to there children, You simply will not settle for inferior food products being fed to your kids.  To the USDA this stuff may be safe to eat but that just means when you eat it you won’t get sick, at least not right away.  If you eat that stuff consistently for twenty years how safe is it then?  Some foods merely fill the body while other foods truly feed the body.  Go whole and get fed, drop the filler!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Pink Slime and MSU...

I couldn’t wait to share this information so I will deviate from my normal Sunday article to deliver this time-sensitive material.
Did you hear about the pink slime that is being served to schoolchildren across the country?  The story went viral last week but its use has been a food industry practice for years.  Most fast food restaurants have banned the pink slime (but only after it’s use had been exposed) but the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is still buying 7 million pounds of beef containing ammonium hydroxide-treated ground connective tissue and meat scraps and serving it up to America's school kids.
"Pink slime," which is officially called "Lean Beef Trimmings," is banned for human consumption in the United Kingdom. It is commonly used in dog and chicken food.
It's used in about 70% of ground beef in the US.  The scariest part though is that the FDA considers this stuff safe for human consumption and thus does not require any sort of labeling to let you know how it was produced. *
I have written in the past about the low quality of the food in the school lunch program and this is another example of why I feel your best option is to pack your own lunches.  And if you’re pressed for time and like the convenience of the school lunch program consider Pure Food 2 U instead. (I have trial coupons if you’d like to give it a try.)
Check out this video demonstration of how the pink slime is produced:
Go Michigan State University!
It's March Madness and Michigan State is one of the top schools in the country but I’m not talking about basketball here!  MSU just hosted the 2012 Great Lakes Grazing Conference. The MSU Extension Service is leading the way in providing new research designed to promote and foster the production of grass-fed beef.
Have you ever heard of the MSU Lake City Grazing Research Farm?  This research farm consists of over 500 acres and supports several hundred head of cattle.
I am not only impressed with the level of grazing research taking place at this research farm but I’m also very pleased with the philosophies and beliefs that have inspired the leading faculty and staff to pursue this research. MSU is leading by example and hopefully school districts around the state will take notice.  The message:  where our food comes from and how it’s produced matters.  High quality food is the foundation of a healthy lifestyle and locally grown and pasture raised food is superior from a nutritional perspective and MSU’s research emphasis will undoubtedly supply more proof of this. **

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Shooting a canon from a canoe...

Spring is upon us and that always reminds me that the baseball season is right around the corner.   All of the major league teams have reported for Spring Training and already a few injuries have hit players after a long winter.  One of these injured players will not surprise Tiger fans.  Former Tiger Joel Zumaya suffered an elbow injury and he will miss the entire 2012 season. 
Zumaya burst onto the scene in 2006 as a hard throwing relief pitcher who was a big contributor for a Tiger team that eventually made the World Series.  That season was the peak of Zumaya’s professional baseball career.  Ever since then he has been plagued with one injury after another and has never come close to playing a full season since 2006.
Due to my strong interest in the youth developmental process I wanted to explore a hunch I had regarding Zumaya’s athletic upbringing. 
Joel was an intimidating hitter and pitcher from the first time he stepped on a ball field. He threw harder than anyone his age, and hit the ball a mile. * This bit of information was about what I expected.  Because of his physical size and strength Zumaya never had to learn how to play the game in order to enjoy success.  All he had to do was overpower and intimidate the smaller kids.
While this approach ultimately took him to the pinnacle of the sport he wasn’t able to sustain a career because of a poor developmental foundation. Baseball is a sport about control.  Power and speed are tremendous assets to posses but they must be harnessed.  As an example imagine a car racing on an oval track, will the fastest car always win the race?  It may but only if the driver has the finesse to handle the corners and the traffic on the track.  If he were just to drive pedal to the metal (that’s how Zumaya pitched) he would likely crash into the wall or the other cars.
Zumaya’s injuries are similar to crashing, eventually the reckless driving catches up to you and you finally burn up (Zumaya is considering retirement at 27 years of age).  Based upon what I have witnessed over the years Zumaya was not a great athlete he did not move particularly well, the oft repeated phrase “a bull in a china shop comes to mind.”  Athleticism is a great buffer and is the foundation for athletes that are highly resistant to injury.  Power potential with out a solid base of support is about as useful as shooting a canon from a canoe.
Contrast Zumaya’s career with another young Tiger that burst onto the scene in the 2006 season, Justin Verlander.  A few no-hitters, CY Young award (baseballs top pitcher) and league MVP later Verlander is arguably the best pitcher in the sport.  Verlander’s fastball is just as lethal as Zumaya’s ever was but he learned to pitch and play the game at slower speeds.
Verlander is terrific athlete and that allows him to harness his power and use it effectively and consistently.  And despite having thrown over 1300 innings since the 2006 season he has never missed a game due to injury.
It’s also worth noting that Zumaya grew up in Southern California and always dreamed about pitching in the big leagues.  He played and threw year round with no breaks.  Despite his size that workload was a tremendous amount of stress for a developing young athlete to endure.  This may not have been a factor in his injuries but it certainly didn’t help.
Verlander didn’t start to take the game seriously until he turned 13 years old and his dad could no longer handle his fastball.  So dad shipped him off to a baseball academy.  Verlander grew up in Virginia and did not play year round and was forced to play other sports indoors at least for a few months. Year round baseball is never a good idea, even the pros take 3 months off and the rest of the season they work with professional trainers and therapists to keep them functioning at a high level.  Due to it’s one-sided nature (throw right or left, hit right or left) developmental imbalances need to be monitored.
Another key for developing the injury resistant and highly skilled young athletes is diversity.  Verlander played shortstop and third base in addition to pitching as an adolescent athlete.  He took the time to develop his complete game.  It may seem counterintuitive but if you want to develop into a great pitcher you need to gain experience at multiple positions.  If someone were ever crazy enough to ask me to be a youth baseball coach I would have all the kids throw with both hands and swing from both sides of the plate.  We may not win many games with this approach early on (development and experience over wins and losses for pre-teens) but in the long run it would pay off with superbly skilled and injury resistant athletes when it matters the most (late teens).
As coaches, parents and teachers we should avoid labeling children with tags such as “she’s a goalie or he’s a pitcher…” That is unfair to place that burden on a child.  Here’s a better approach:  “this is Sarah she loves playing hockey but now that spring is right around the corner she can’t wait to start playing soccer!”
You may argue that Zumaya made it to the big leagues with a one-dimensional approach but that should not be the end game for our young sport participants.  The chances of a youth sport participant playing a sport professionally or even high level college athletics is rare at best.  If they are good enough it will be a side effect of following a sound developmental athletic upbringing.  Zumaya may have gotten his foot in the door but he never reached his full potential.  And because he was not a highly regarded high school player he did not get a big signing bonus and never made big money in the pros.  What I am saying is he will have to find another way to make a living if he is forced to retire due to injuries.  For his sake I hope he had a plan “B!”
By The Numbers:
Statistically of the 100,000 high school seniors who play football every year, only 215 will ever make an NFL roster. That is 0.2%! Even of the 9,000 players that make it to the college level only 310 are invited to the NFL scouting combine, the pool from which teams make their draft picks."
According to the National Collegiate Athletic Association, only between 3.2% and 6.6% (depending upon sport) of all high school varsity baseball, basketball, football, and soccer athletes will go on to play collegiately.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Where Genetics and Food Collide...

The last few weeks I have discussed why following governmental nutritional guidelines is less than optimal.  But starting last week rather than pointing out all the flaws I wanted to be more constructive and start providing you with solutions that work for your lifestyle.

The most important concept to grasp with respect to nutrition is that the amount and type of food you eat is very dependent upon you as an individual.  A one-size-fits all approach to nutrition can’t possibly come close to addressing you and your families needs.

I have tried just about every nutritional approach known to man and have done quite a bit of self-experimentation over the years to arrive at my current philosophy.  The approach that works best for me is what’s called eating according to your blood type.  The researcher widely recognized as the authority on blood type eating, Peter D’ Adamo, N.D., explains the diet like this,  “If you put the right kind of gas in the car, it runs very well-probably runs a lot longer.  But if you put in the wrong gas, it’ll run for a while, and you probably won’t notice the difference until something goes wrong.” *

I was a little skeptical at first but decided to give it a try.  My blood is type B and according to D’Adamo the type B gene enabled my nomadic tribe ancestors to survive and thrive at high elevations and in cold climates.  My ancestors had to raise herd animals in order to survive so meats and dairy from animals like goats and sheep should be highly beneficial for me.  I do find this to be the case when I eat the recommended foods for my blood type I digest the food more efficiently (no stomach up set), I have more energy and mental clarity and of note for those interested in weight loss I found these foods satisfied me for longer periods of time and I didn’t want or need to eat as much.

Interestingly chicken and tomatoes are on my foods to avoid list and though I used to eat these foods all the time I noticed a positive difference when I eliminated them from my diet.

Blood types at a glance:
  • Type O-High levels of stomach acid help this blood type, which descended from hunters-gatherers, easily process all kinds of meat.
  • Type A-As people began cultivating crops, their micro-biomes (populations of bacteria in their bodies) adapted to allow for the optimal digestion of all kinds of plant foods.
  • Type B-Descendants of nomadic tribes that raised herds to survive, are efficient digesters of plant foods, red meat and dairy.
  • Type AB’s-Arose from the commingling of A and B populations, and as a result, harbor digestive advantages of both types.

New research is showing that nutritional recommendations should be based on someone’s genetic heritage.   Dr. John Berardi is an expert researcher in nutrient biochemistry and states the following regarding eating according to your ancestry:

“In the last 10 years we’ve learned so much about nutrigenomics. This area of science studies our genetic make-up and how our genes impact our experience in the world.

Obviously, our genes are linked to where our ancestors are from. And that’s where it gets interesting. There’s some fascinating new research showing that depending on where our family lineage is from, our nutritional tolerances could be completely different.

For example, there’s something called lactase persistence. It’s whether or not our genetic line has preserved the ability to make lactase, the enzyme that helps us digest milk.

In the UK, for example, almost 100% of the population has lactase persistence. This means that dairy is well tolerated in nearly 100% of the UK. The same is true in Scandinavian countries and Northwestern Africa. However, in Eastern Europe, Asia, and Southern Africa, lactase persistence is less than 10%. Meaning, that in these areas, almost no one can handle dairy.

Knowing this, your thoughts on dairy consumption might need to change based on where your family comes from. But that’s another discussion for another day. With dairy, we also need to consider a host of other things, from hormones and antibiotics to homogenization and pasteurization.

There’s a similar relationship between our genetic heritage and our ability to digest and process carbohydrates.

People from Northern Europe, the UK, and Southern Asia make more salivary amylase and other carbohydrate-digesting enzymes because they’ve traditionally eaten a more carbohydrate-rich diet. While people from Africa and Northern Asia make fewer carbohydrate-digesting enzymes because of their traditional diet that’s lower in carbohydrates.

So it’s the same thing with as with milk. Your thoughts on grains would have to change based on where in the world your ancestors come from.

In the end, I’m not sharing any of this to confuse people. Rather, it’s to point out that nutrition plans should always be a starting point for further experimentation. Not rigid, immutable guidelines.

Of course, if you’re new to all this, you need some guidelines to work from to put you on the right track. But after that, your best bet is to adopt the adventurous attitude of a physiological pioneer. To boldly experiment and tweak until you find what works for you.” *

Dr. Berardi is one of my go to resources because he provides the perfect blend of science and practicality.  And to his last point the blood type diet provides guidelines for my own nutritional intake but I don’t follow it strictly.  I have made tweaks here and there to the diet after determining what works best for my lifestyle.

As promised I will provide a much better alternative to the USDA’s MyPlate.  These plates are based on solid scientific data and — perhaps most importantly — on the real world eating experiences (and long-term success) of thousands of Dr. Berardi’s clients.

The first is an “Anytime” plate. The Anytime plate recommendations are for those who either don’t exercise — in which case, they’d follow these recommendations exclusively — or for those who do exercise, in which case, they’d eat Anytime meals for every meal outside the post-exercise period.

The second plate is the “Post Workout” plate. The Post Workout plate recommendations are for those who perform intense exercise. Eat a Post Workout meal soon after your intense exercise sessions only.

Although plant-based eaters (i.e. vegans) make up only 1-2% of the population, they’re some of the most nutritionally conscious and proactive individuals. That’s why Dr. Berardi decided to come up with a plant-based plate.

Dr. Berardi’s meal plate recommendations are ideal for those interested in maximizing their health and improving body composition (muscle/fat mass ratio).  Regarding the starches in the post workout plate it should be noted that the best options are whole grains like oats, brown rice and quinoa.  Sweet potatoes are also an ideal starch for the post workout period.

The future of nutrition (medicine and fitness for that matter) is moving in the direction of personalization.  In a few years it would not surprise me that we will all go to professionals that after some testing will provide us with an individualized exercise and nutrition prescription based upon genetics.  In the meantime, following recommendations such as Dr. Berardi’s MyPlate can be useful in providing you with a solid nutritional foundation from which to build a diet upon.
However listen to your body and take note what works best for you.

*FIRST, 9/19/11, pages 32-36.