Monthly Archives: May 2013

Magnesium May be Just as Important as Calcium in Kids’ Bone

Magnesium May be Just as Important as Calcium in Kids’ Bone

Reference:  Steven Abrams, Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting 2013

Magnesium?  Who ever heard of magnesium?   What on earth?  Well, considering earth, it is one of the most common elements on earth and it acts exactly like calcium, only smaller.   We have preached the eating of high calcium foods for decades, without making much progress.  We still have osteoporosis are rates almost 100 times greater than some parts of the world.  Not 10 times, 100 times.  Every billboard on the freeway with a white mustache on it is a reminder to drink more calcium.  And we haven’t gained much.  We are still breaking our bones at a record clip.

So what did Dr. Abrams do that was so convincing?   He got 63 kids, ages 4-8 and admitted them to a metabolic unit in a hospital to that every calorie they ate could be weighed and measured.  Then, they also collected food diaries (that included scales and weighing food at home) to see how accurate their normal diet compared to the hospital diet and tried to make precise certainty that their hospital food matched their home food for calcium and magnesium intake.  Finally, they gave them a tiny bit of non-radioactive stable isotopes of calcium and magnesium by IV and orally to see how much they were absorbing into their bone.  With that, they could collect urine for 72 hours and predict just how much was absorbed into bone.   And to measure bone health, they did DEXA scanning to get precise measurement.

What they found was not what they expected.  Calcium did not predict how strong or healthy their bones were.  It was the magnesium that predicted strong, dense bones.  Magnesium!   We’ve been barking up the wrong tree.

Why is childhood bone health so important?  Your bone density in your teen years predicts what your bone density will be 50 years later.  The better you are in your early childhood, the better your teen years will be.  The better your teen years, the better your 60s.  Considering that bone health is strongly associated with many other illnesses, including Alzheimer’s, keeping healthy bones may be part and parcel of keeping healthy brains, having less diabetes, living longer and never breaking a hip.

We’ve just talked about the COMB study and its ability to improve bone density in the elderly with the combination of magnesium, Vitamin K2, Vitamin D, fish oil and strontium.  Vitamin K2 is clearly a game changer.  But we shouldn’t forget lowly magnesium.  We know there are concerns about taking too much calcium with the possibility of more heart attacks from that practice.  Interestingly enough, strontium also acts chemically precisely like calcium, but it’s bigger and heavier.  Both the smaller and larger cousins of calcium make for stronger bones.

WWW.  What will work for me?  Kids bones are like the canary in the coal mine.  I need to be aware of my magnesium intake.  Foods with the most magnesium include all nuts, seeds, brans and lots of herbs like sage, coriander and basil.  Chocolate is high in magnesium too.   Almost all seafood is pretty high.  Green vegetables like spinach are loaded.  Eat more spinach.

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Pop Quiz

1.   We break our bones at a much higher rate in America than in other countries from osteoporosis?  T or F


2.  Adult bone density is predicted by childhood bone strength? T or F

Also True

3.   According to this study, the amount of magnesium in a child’s diet is more predictive of healthy strong bones than the amount of calcium.  T or F


4.   This supports the COMB study findings that showed a Combination of Micronutrients all work together in adults, and magnesium was part of that mix, whereas added calcium was not.  T or F


5.  A great source of magnesium is hamburger and pizza and other bread products.  T or F

False, false, and false.  Please, it’s green leafy vegetables like spinach that hit the home run with magnesium.  Nuts and seafood, bran too.

Vitamin K2, Intelligence and the Aging Brain

Vitamin K2, Intelligence and the Aging Brain

Reference:  Ferland, Advances in Nutrition 2013

Are you a bit upset with yourself when you can’t find your car keys?  Do you walk into a room and can’t remember why you went there?  Do you find yourself having to make a list to remember things or else just assuming you won’t?  Can you remember the title of the movie you saw last weekend?    Hmmmm.   Well, join the human race.  Many folks start feeling their age with the loss of mental acuity.  There is pretty good evidence that the speed of our “microprocessor” slows as we age.  In our 20’s, it takes about 310 milliseconds for a sound wave to show a brain-evoked response.   We hold onto that for 10-20 years and then lose about 10 milliseconds a decade.  By age 60, we are at 350 milliseconds.  We are slowing down.  Our brains take a while to remember.  If we panic in that extra millisecond, we erase the possibility of remembering.  By the time we hit 390, we are demented.   We call that Alzheimer’s.    Our goal is to prevent aging related decline.

Ok, so what does Vitamin K have to do with it?  Ferland, in his review goes over all the basic science on K2.  The dominant form of K in the brain is MK-4, or K2.  We have known for almost 50 years that K2 is necessary and important for the production of sphingolipids that are critical signaling and structural components in the brain.  Your first clue about the role of K in the brain comes from the dire warnings for pregnant women not to take coumadin.  Coumadin blocks K1, and mothers on coumadin have a very high risk for brain damage to their babies if not outright death and miscarriage.  Of note, the majority of damage happens when taken earliest in pregnancy.

So what about later in life with mild insufficiency?   Ferland’s review details a variety of studies that are beginning to put together a compelling picture.  From basic physiology where there is extensive research now detailing the role of K2 in promoting important brain proteins like Gas6 that plays a major role in cell survival, chemotaxis, mitogenesis, and cell growth of neurons and glial cells.  There is also emerging bench research in rats that are fed high, medium and low levels of K2 while young and maturing.  The rats with high K2 intake end up performing markedly better on maze testing.

Alzheimer’s patients can be measured for their K2 status and be found to have markedly lower K2 in their blood and a diet of less green vegetables compared to controls.   Measurement of uncarboxylated vitamin K dependent proteins also correlates strongly with performance on the Mini-Mental Status exam.   Which comes first?  We won’t know until we have much more research, which will take 10-20 years, to be followed by 10 years of national conventional haggling and guideline development.  For those of you with 20 years to spare, you can wait.

WWW. What will work for me?  This is deadly serious. We have a nutrient we have neglected to research.  To our peril!   Low K2 is correlated with our brains turning to mush.  Much of that comes from eating fewer green vegetables.  I’m working on the vegetables.  But there is no downside to taking some K2.  It is not in any way toxic that we know.  And I can’t find my car keys.  Every day, at least 45 mcg of MK-4, and probably more.  (And if you are on coumadin, only with the care and supervision of a knowledgeable doctor.)

Pop Quiz

1.   As we age, the speed of our brain’s ability to process information slows or speeds up.   Answer:  Slows.  By about 10 milliseconds a decade.

2.   When you block vitamin K1 production with coumadin in pregnant women, their fetuses have dramatic toxic effects demonstrated on their brains.   T or F

Answer:  True

3.   Rats fed no K2 over their life time do better or worse than rats fed adequate amounts.

Answer: Dramatically different performance in maze testing experiments.  More K2, better memory in rats.

4.  Frail elderly with cognitive decline have lower K2 in their blood that those with no cognitive decline.  T or F


5.   We will have guidelines soon to guide us in our decisions.  T or F

Don’t hold your breath. The innovation process in medicine takes 14 years.

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Iodine in Pregnancy and Mental Ability of Children

Iodine in Pregnancy and Mental Ability of Children

Reference:  Hynes, JCEM May 2013

Ok, anyone here want their children to have a top notch IQ after being born?  Of course!   Our dream for our kids is that they all will get PhDs by age 5 and know at least 6 different languages before high school is out.  Well, we have found a new risk factor that is easily adjusted but up till now not known.

Iodine.  It’s that trace element that’s added to salt because we don’t have enough.   The World Health Organization cites iodine deficiency as the number one nutritional deficiency resulting in mental retardation in children.  In the early 1900s as many as 50% of Milwaukee women had goiters from iodine deficiency.   That was all fixed with the addition of iodine to salt by Mr Morton.  It is well known that severe iodine deficiency is a big problem.   Well, if severe deficiency is a big problem, how big a problem is mild deficiency?   And how many of us are mildly low?  How common is this problem?   This is what Hynes set out to find out at the University of Tasmania.  She followed 212 Australian women at the University of Tasmania hospitals from 1999 to 2001 and checked their urinary iodine. That is a pretty good method of assessing their iodine adequacy.    Urinary iodines below 150 are considered to be a bit low.   Not horribly low.  Just a little.   Much like you and me.

What did they find?  Nine years later the children born subsequently whose mothers had low iodine while pregnant had spelling scores on the Australian spelling standardized test of 371 compared to 412 in the otherwise average Australian child.  And on grammar their scores were 377 compared to 408.  On global literacy scores, they were about 6% lower.  All of these were statistically significant.  That means low iodine during pregnancy is correlated with poor performance on cognitive testing 9 years later that is not enhanced by iodine given later in life.  The ship has sailed and it’s now too late to fix it.   Iodine is needed during pregnancy, critically.

Where do we get iodine from?  In America, most of it comes from milk where we get about 56 mcg in a cup.  Baked cod has 99 mcg in a serving.  If we ate more iodized salt, we would get some from there too.  Wisconsin and Midwest soils don’t have much iodine in them.  Milwaukee is the center of the “goiter belt” from the early 1900s when as many as 50% of women had some enlargement of their thyroid.  We added iodine to salt 100 years ago but now everyone is crazed with sea salt which has virtually no iodine.  (Despite the marketing, Himalayan salt and all those gourmet salts have very little mineral content. They just taste better because you get big chunks of salt bursts, and we all love salt on our tongues.)

But focus on the core message.  Our iodine access in the Midwest is very limited.  Many of us are marginally deficient.  Being deficient during pregnancy is a big, big problem.  It should be added to our list of pregnancy nutrients for an optimal baby.  The cost of low iodine in pregnancy is a lifetime of mental insufficiency.   Not acceptable.

WWW. What will work for me.  That’s easy.  I’m testing iodine left and right and finding folks with low iodine.  I personally take it at 1 mg a day, which is what I think everyone should be at.  It’s not hard to test for, just a bit of urine on blotter paper morning and evening and in 10 days you have an answer.   And if you know any woman who is pregnant, give her this email, today.
Pop Quiz

1.   Iodine is a salt that we get mostly from milk,  T or F

True.   And iodized salt.

2.   Our brains need iodine while our mothers still have us prior to delivery in order to have a normal IQ?   T or F

That’s it in a nutshell

3.  We are deficient in iodine in the midwest because there is little iodine in our soils?  T or F


4.  We get more iodine from Himalayan salt and sea salt?  T or F

False.  It’s all advertising

5.   WHO has identified Iodine as the number one cause of severe mental retardation in the world.  T or F

True.  So, if severe deficiency makes for severe retardation, this study shows mild deficiency makes for mild retardation.  Which do you want?

6.  Iodine is toxic.  T or F

Horse cookies!   No evidence of toxicity unless you have known thyroid disease.   The American Society of Endocrinology says 1 mg is safe forever.  The RDA of 150 goes to 220 while pregnant.  Maybe a little more would be prudent!
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Is Fat Bad for You? #2 Bacon and Saturated Fat

Is Fat Bad for You? #2  Bacon and Saturated Fat

References: Siri-Tarino AJCN 2010 Castelli Archives of Internal MedSinatra, The Great Cholesterol Myth

Last week we talked about cholesterol and how its use has been found to be virtually meaningless with studies showing that high cholesterol even has longer survival than low.  Perhaps the sole purpose of measuring cholesterol is to sell your drugs that lower it, as there is little scientific justification to use just the cholesterol level to manage your health.  But what about saturated fat?  What about bacon?  I’ve avoided bacon for 30 years. Did it do me any good?  I’ve drunk low fat milk instead of “high test” full fat milk, fearful of it’s artery clogging effects.

What’s the difference between the cholesterol and saturated fat?  Saturated fat is like beef suet.  It’s the white in bacon.  It is different than cholesterol in structure and is primarily your storage fat, whereas cholesterol is your membrane and hormone making fat.  What happens when you eat it?   Actually, your LDLs get larger and fluffier and much less dense. That makes your LDLs get SAFER, not more dangerous.  Your total cholesterol may go up, but your blood fat pattern shifts to a safer pattern as you get away from the small dense LDLs. But science is showing it not to be as dangerous as we thought.

Dr Castelli, the director of the Framingham Heart Study wrote back in 1992, in reference to the data from the long running Framingham heart study, “the more saturated fat one ate, one more cholesterol one ate, the more calories one ate, the lower the person’s serum cholesterol….we found that the persons who ate the….most saturated fat, …weigh the least and were the most physically active.”  This is our longest running American study looking at heart disease.  At the beginning, the study was first quoted as a reason NOT to eat saturated fat.  That’s one of our most authoritative, prospective studies of heart disease risk.

So what happens when Siri-Tarino and Hu look at 347,747 people followed in 21 studies for between 5-23 years for a direct examination of saturated fat and its effect on your health?   In 2010, looking at ALL previous studies of saturated fat, mortality and heart disease (not on cholesterol), they found a very simple answer.  “Intake of saturated fat was not associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease or stroke.” Those folks eating the most saturated fat had the same outcomes as those eating the least.  Ooops!   Did you get that?  NOT ASSOCIATED.  NOT.  Let that sink in.  When you go to the grocery store and look at the yogurt container, it says, “LOW FAT” or “ZERO FAT”.  What’s in there if there isn’t fat?   Sugar or protein.  That means those messages on the yogurt container are meaningless.  No, worse. They are false, misleading and dangerous.

What does saturated fat do for you?  It makes you feel full.  It satisfies your hunger.  You don’t eat as often and the meal holds your appetite for longer.  And your LDLs get safer.  I can’t emphasize enough how much our entire food supply has been structured for you to be frightened of saturated fat, and how wrong every message is.  If you want to avoid heart disease, it’s the sugar and white flour that dangerous, not the saturated fat.   Repeat, repeat, repeat.  It’s the sugar, white flour, trans fats and vegetable oils that are doing you in.  Not the bacon.

WWW. What will work for me?  I’m loving enjoying eggs again.  I’m slurping up those yolks with a clean conscience.  I’ve stopped buying low fat yogurt.  I go for the high test Greek full-fat Fage yogurt.  Just delicious.  I feel full when I eat it.   And I’m doing so well, until my dear significant other bakes a homemade chocolate cake with homemade icing.  If it had just been one piece….  Meanwhile, enjoy your bacon.

Pop Quiz

1.  Saturated fat is fat that is solid at room temperature, like bacon and beef suet.  T or F


2.  We’ve admonished you to eat low fat yogurt, skim milk, margarine, and to avoid eggs and other sources of saturated fat as a means of avoiding heart attacks for about 60 years.   T or F

Yes, that’s what we’ve been telling you.

3.   Current, prospective research has been showing that saturated fat is the evil demon we thought it to be.  T or F

True.  Despite every label in the grocery store.

4.   Siri-Tarino and Hu performed a massive meta-analysis of  23 different studies showing that saturated fat was still a risk for us, despite all our best efforts to say it’s safe.  T or F

No, no no.  That’s backwards.  The meta-analysis showed that it is almost completely harmless in regard to heart disease and stroke.

5.  It’s probably just fine to eat eggs with the yolks instead of egg beaters.  T or F


6. And bacon? is that Bad?