Jim: Last month we were speaking about antioxidants and I'd like to ask why you've increased the selenium content in the new One Per Meal Radical Shield formula from 110 to 170 micrograms per three capsules?
Durk: The reason that we increased the selenium is that it turns out that selenium found in foods has a relatively low level of bioavailability. When you analyze for mineral content in foods, you first boil the food sample in refluxing nitric acid and then analyze it with an atomic absorption spectraphotometer. This is good for measuring the minerals that are in there, but it doesn't tell you how much your stomach can extract, since your stomach doesn't work well with boiling nitric acid.
Sandy: So when we found out that selenium was less bioavailable than had previously been thought we increased the amount of selenium in the One Per Meal Radical Shield to make up for that difference. This is a common problem. There was a recent study that found that folic acid is very, very difficult to get from foods because it's in the form of folate. It's actually very difficult for a women trying to get the 400 micrograms of folic acid a day required to reduce the risk of neural tube birth defects.
Durk: In fact what the researchers did was to put three groups of women on diets that were high in identical levels of folate. One group of women ate foods that were naturally high in folate, another group ate a diet of foods that were fortified with synthetic folate as an additive, and the third group took a pill containing synthetic folate, and guess what happened?
The women given foods containing 400 micrograms per day of folate had no measurable increase in serum folate levels-it didn't go up at all. On the other hand the group on a diet that contained folic acid as a food additive got a nice rise in serum levels, and of course the group taking the pills got a good rise in their levels also.
Sandy: It's just very difficult to get folic acid from foods. We've known for quite some time that there's a low bioavailability of folic acid from foods, but until this study was reported it wasn't realized quite how bad the bioavailability was. The FDA had already allowed a health claim for foods containing a lot of folic acid, assuming that women would be able to get the 400 micrograms of folic acid a day from food, but now they're having to reconsider the entire plan because you just can't get it out of food.
Durk: The claim which we strongly objected to and is one of the claims we're suing them on would allow you to make a neural tube defect prevention claim if the food naturally contained 10% of the RDA, or 40 micrograms, of folate, and you'd be lucky to get half of that out of the food. So as a result of the FDA's labeling rule, an ordinary food that has natural folate in it may only result in you getting only 1/40th of the minimum amount required in one serving.
Sandy: And this would also mislead women into thinking they were getting a protective effect from that serving of food, and in fact there would be no protection.
Jim: I understand the FDA is requiring food manufacturers to supplement cereals and grain products with folic acid. Does this present new problems in regard to masking vitamin B-12 deficiencies?
Durk: Yes, they require that folic acid be added to certain grains and cereals. We object to the idea of the government ordering the medication, and that's what this is, the medication of the food supply. I don't think that's a good idea. I use fluoride mouthwash after every meal. I also use fluoride toothpaste, but I don't think that fluoride should be added to the water.
Sandy: First, there's the matter of freedom of choice. Why should an individual have the government provide them with medication in the foods they eat without having a choice in the matter? Of course, if the FDA gets their way, all forms of flour are going to be required to contain folic acid. Secondly, because of the fact the FDA is providing an entire population with folic acid, they have to consider any individuals who might be sensitive to extra folic acid, such as people who may have vitamin B-12 deficiencies, and whose symptoms of vitamin B-12 deficiency might be covered up by extra folic acid.
Durk: And of course our solution would be to have plenty of vitamin B-12 in those flours also.
Sandy: Also women are not going to get 400 micrograms of folic acid per day from normal consumption of these fortified foods.
Durk: Another thing to consider, and this is a rather fascinating and bizarre story, but a woman recently became allergic to the same folic acid to be used in fortifying the food supply. The woman was given a vast overdose of methyltrexate, an anti-folic acid compound used in cancer chemotherapy. Apparently she was accidentally over-dosed and in order to rescue her she was given a huge dose of folic acid. It saved her life and she lived, however she now has antibodies, believe it or not, to folic acid. Now that's not something I think a normal person has to worry about unless they're being rescued from a fatal dose of methyltrexate.
Sandy: They gave her immense doses of folic acid to counteract the methyltrexate, and she would have died otherwise, but this is something I've never heard of before-somebody actually allergic to a vitamin you must have in order to live. It's a very bad scene.
Jim: So the addition of folic acid in the food supply poses the risk of masking the symptoms of pernicious anemia, or vitamin B-12 deficiency.
Durk: That is possible, however a search of the world literature on actual cases that have occurred finds only a handful of cases. They all involved adult alcoholic males who were debilitated and suffered liver problems from their alcoholism.
Whether this actually exists to any significant extent in the general population isn't clear. One way that we deal with this issue is to supply so much B-12 that if the person wasn't dead from pernicious anemia before, the symptoms aren't going to be covered up by the folic acid. Because we give them so many more RDA's of the B-12, even if they can only absorb 5 or 10% from their gut their going to be fine.
Sandy: We just think that it's a real bad idea for the government to decide when they're going to medicate the population and stick it in your food.
Durk: While we're talking about folic acid, another interesting issue is the relation between folic acid, B-12, B-6, homocystine and atherosclerosis, and deaths from cardiovascular disease. It appears as if about 20% of all deaths from cardiovascular disease are due to excessive levels of homocystine, a metabolite of methionine. You can't make homocystine from cysteine, but you can make it from methionine.
Homocystine is a pro-oxidant that causes free radical damage, and it's an excitatory neurotoxin as well. In order to eliminate the homocystine in your body and turn it into something good, an antioxidant called cystithione, you need to have three vitamins which many people don't have enough of-you need folic acid, vitamin B-12 and vitamin B-6.
Now, even by the FDA's meager RDA standards for vitamin B-6, which we think are much too low, by a factor of 10 or more, 80% of the population, even by the FDA's standards, do not get the RDA of vitamin B-6 in their diet. Most people don't get the RDA of folic acid in their diet, and as a result there are a lot of people running around with elevated levels of homocystine.
Sandy: In fact the risk of homocystine is remarkable in that as you reduce homocystine in your bloodstream, your risks of cardiovascular disease go down, continuing all the way down to zero once you've eliminated the homocystine. Of course that's as low as you can go, but any amount of homocystine is a risk factor.
Durk: Now we don't mean that you can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease to zero. What we mean is if you reduce your risk from homocystine from normal levels to zero you get a further reduction in cardiovascular risks. Whereas once you go below 150 on your total cholesterol level, if you have a decent HDL to LDL ratio, you really don't gain much by going lower. In the case of homocystine it looks like any amount is bad for you. The more you have, the worse it is, and the amounts people have that are considered normal are bad for them.
Jim: Are homocystine levels normally looked at by doctors as part of standard blood tests?
Durk: No, but it is available. Any doctor can just pull a blood sample and send it off to the lab and ask for a homocystine determination. Now most people will come back with a finding in the normal range, but that doesn't mean that that's good. You want to be below the bottom end of the bottom range.
Sandy: To have a normal amount of risk for cardiovascular disease is not something that you really want at all. The information about homocystine and how folic acid is effective in reducing homocystine levels, and of homocystine's role in cardiovascular disease, all that is information that a vitamin supplier cannot provide about folic acid supplements.
This is another thing that we haven't gotten to in our lawsuit with the FDA. We're still arguing about things from the past, and haven't caught up with the latest research such as the recent findings regarding homocystine, which has been suspected for some time.
Durk: Well, McCulley at M.I.T. wrote about it in the 70's and we included the information in our book Life Extension, A Practical Scientific Approach, which was publish in 1982.
Sandy: The information has been around for quite some time.
Durk: A lot of papers have been published on it recently, backed by really solid epidemiological data from large numbers of people
Jim: Is there an acceptable level for homocystine?
Durk: Well, it depends on how the measurement is made-any printout from a medical lab will indicate the normal range. However, as I said, you want to be below the bottom end of the normal range for homocystine. With most tests you don't want to be below the bottom end of the normal range, but homocystine is one you do want to have as low as possible.
Sandy: There's a normal range, because looking at people who appear to be healthy led to the assumption that the amount of homocystine that they have in their bloodstream is normal and acceptable.
Durk: On the other hand, it's normal for people to die of heart attacks.
Sandy: Exactly. In fact that's the number one killer-most people die of cardiovascular disease, and then comes cancer and so on. You don't want to die of any of these things if you can possibly avoid it.
Jim: Is there any correlation between iron intake and homocystine levels?
Durk: I don't know of any correlation, but certainly excessive iron is a bad problem, particularly if you have a high saturation level. Above 60% saturation of your transferrin is a bad idea because iron is a very powerful free radial agent. We don't think people should be taking supplemental iron unless they have been diagnosed by a clinical laboratory as having iron deficiency anemia. In most people with anemia it's much more likely that to be due to a folate or B-12 deficiency than due to an iron deficiency.
You know iron's ubiquitous in the environment-you find it in pots and pans, water pipes, food processing equipment and so forth-there's a lot of it out there. It's interesting to note that you get psychiatric symptoms with iron overload, what appears to be psychosis. That's probably due to free radicals doing all sorts of mischief in the brain.
Jim: What about studies indicating iron overload and premature death in males?
Durk: Not every study indicates that, but some of them do, and I think the reason for that is that you have a lot of iron going into the body, but that doesn't mean that you end up with it in the bloodstream. For example phytic acid is a very good chelator of iron. If phytic acid grabs the iron in your gut, that iron is going to be eliminated when you go to the bathroom.
Sandy: I think that evidence that excess iron contributes to cardiovascular disease and cancer, particularly in men, is critical enough, that if we didn't know that iron is a free radical catalyst it would be very difficult to interpret. You have to be cautious about something that is such a powerful free radical catalyst, knowing what we do about the contribution of free radicals to diseases and aging.
Durk: It should also be noted that free radicals like superoxide can extract the iron from transferrin and turn it into free iron, which is very, very reactive.
Jim: Do you have any other suggestions for people taking your One Per Meal?
Durk: One other thing I think we should say, if someone wants to take our Personal Radical Shield we strongly suggest you take a bottle of the One Per Meal Radical Shield first. The reason for that to give your body a chance to get used to extraordinarily high amounts of these nutrients.
Sandy: Also One Per Meal can help you get into the habit of taking dietary supplements three or four times a day. If you can't get yourself into the habit and you skip doses, or take everything at once, you're really not getting the full benefit of the supplement.
Durk: In order to get the maximum benefits of water soluble nutrients in your bloodstream, such as vitamin C, vitamin B-2, vitamin B-6 you really need to take these three times a day.
Jim: Thank you.
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