Research supports the role of our intestinal microflora in disease protection and prevention. Probiotics help to restore the natural balance of good bacteria in the intestinal tract. Read more at DrFuhrman.com.
In recent years, we have learned that getting adequate vitamin D is crucial to many aspects of our health, and that for many people reasonable sun exposure is not enough. There are two forms of supplemental vitamin D, D2 and D3. In the past, D2 was the only vegan form of the vitamin available, but vegan D3 is now on the market. Which one should you take? Find out in this article.
News reports last week claimed that multivitamins are a waste of money. Most studies have not found that multivitamins protect against cardiovascular disease or cancer, and some studies suggest that multivitamins may actually promote cancer. On the other hand, micronutrient deficiencies are certainly detrimental to health. So should we take multivitamins? And if so, how do we choose a good multivitamin? Read more at DrFuhrman.com
The importance of vitamin D for bone health is now well-recognized, and the epidemic of vitamin D insufficiency and deficiency is thought to contribute to a wide range of medical conditions including cancers, mood disorders, autoimmune conditions, cardiovascular disease and more.1 As such, vitamin D sufficiency (25(OH)D greater than 30 ng/ml) is associated with a reduced risk of death from all causes.2,3
In addition to bone, vitamin D receptors are present in almost all cells of the body, including muscle cells. Vitamin D’s primary function is the regulation of calcium transport and metabolism – since calcium transport is an integral part of muscle contraction and relaxation, vitamin D is extremely important for proper muscle function. There is also evidence that achieving vitamin D sufficiency may help to increase muscle mass. In the early 20th century, observations led athletes and trainers to believe that sunlight exposure could enhance athletic performance. Athletic performance has been reported to vary seasonally, peaking in the summer; positive effects of UVB exposure on athletic performance were reported as early as the 1930s. There is now speculation that improved vitamin D status is the reason for these findings.4,5
Previous studies have shown that vitamin D status correlates with muscle function in the elderly, and that vitamin D supplementation improves muscle strength in elderly and/or deficient populations.6-9 New research is beginning to extend these findings to physical performance in athletes. Since there is a high prevalence of vitamin D insufficiency overall, and vitamin d is crucial for bone and muscle function, does vitamin D status affect injury rates or performance in athletes? Two recent studies on professional ballet dancers suggest that it does.
Indoor athletes are likely to have insufficient vitamin D levels.5,10 The first study showed that this was true of ballet dancers in a UK company; on average, their vitamin D status was insufficient (<30 ng/ml) all year round and varied seasonally. In the winter, dancers averaged 14.9 ng/ml (deficient), and in the summer, 23.9 ng/ml (insufficient). The authors also observed a greater occurrence of injuries in the winter months.11 The follow-up study provided vitamin D3 supplements (2000 IU/day) to some of the dancers during the winter, and investigated muscle function and injury rates. In the vitamin D group, there were increases in isometric strength and vertical jump height, plus significantly fewer injuries compared to the control group.12
This is consistent with a previous study of UK athletes, which compared 5000 IU vitamin D for 8 weeks to placebo. The researchers saw increases in sprint times and vertical jump height in the vitamin D group, but not in the placebo group.13
These results suggest that vitamin D’s beneficial effects on bone and muscle physiology can translate into enhanced athletic performance. Achieving sufficient blood vitamin D levels (25(OH)D of 30-45 ng/ml) is crucial for the health of the entire body, not just for preventing osteoporosis.
Image credit: Flickr - TooFarNorth
1. Holick MF, Chen TC: Vitamin D deficiency: a worldwide problem with health consequences. Am J Clin Nutr 2008;87:1080S-1086S.
2. Melamed ML, Michos ED, Post W, et al: 25-Hydroxyvitamin D Levels and the Risk of Mortality in the General Population. Arch Intern Med 2008;168:1629-1637.
3. Zittermann A, Iodice S, Pilz S, et al: Vitamin D deficiency and mortality risk in the general population: a meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Am J Clin Nutr 2012;95:91-100.
4. Hamilton B: Vitamin d and athletic performance: the potential role of muscle. Asian J Sports Med 2011;2:211-219.
5. Cannell JJ, Hollis BW, Sorenson MB, et al: Athletic performance and vitamin D. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2009;41:1102-1110.
6. Glerup H, Mikkelsen K, Poulsen L, et al: Hypovitaminosis D myopathy without biochemical signs of osteomalacic bone involvement. Calcif Tissue Int 2000;66:419-424.
7. Sato Y, Iwamoto J, Kanoko T, et al: Low-dose vitamin D prevents muscular atrophy and reduces falls and hip fractures in women after stroke: a randomized controlled trial. Cerebrovasc Dis 2005;20:187-192.
8. Bischoff HA, Stahelin HB, Urscheler N, et al: Muscle strength in the elderly: its relation to vitamin D metabolites. Arch Phys Med Rehabil 1999;80:54-58.
9. Bischoff-Ferrari HA, Dietrich T, Orav EJ, et al: Higher 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations are associated with better lower-extremity function in both active and inactive persons aged > or =60 y. Am J Clin Nutr 2004;80:752-758.
10. Peeling P, Fulton SK, Binnie M, et al: Training environment and Vitamin D status in athletes. Int J Sports Med 2013;34:248-252.
11. Wolman R, Wyon MA, Koutedakis Y, et al: Vitamin D status in professional ballet dancers: Winter vs. summer. J Sci Med Sport 2013.
12. Wyon MA, Koutedakis Y, Wolman R, et al: The influence of winter vitamin D supplementation on muscle function and injury occurrence in elite ballet dancers: A controlled study. J Sci Med Sport 2013.
13. Close GL, Russell J, Cobley JN, et al: Assessment of vitamin D concentration in non-supplemented professional athletes and healthy adults during the winter months in the UK: implications for skeletal muscle function. J Sports Sci 2013;31:344-353.
Vitamin D insufficiency is common among Americans overall but more prevalent among African Americans. A recent review of the literature suggests that vitamin D insufficiency is a key contributor to cancer survival disparities that exist between African Americans and white Americans (darker skin is less efficient at producing vitamin D in response to UV rays).1 A striking part of this literature review is the comprehensive summary of the existing data on vitamin D status and cancer survival: the authors present a long list of studies reporting that vitamin D adequacy is associated with reduced risk of death in all cancers combined, breast, colorectal, lung, and prostate cancer, leukemia and lymphomas.1
A protective effect of vitamin D against cancers was first proposed in 1980, based on an earlier observation that colon cancer mortality was the highest in geographical areas exposed to the least amounts of sunlight.2,3
Several more studies of geographical variations in cancers have found the same result: inverse relationships exist between sun exposure and 24 types of cancer, including the most common cancers – those of the breast, colon, rectum, and prostate.4, 5
Since 1980, evidence for the involvement of vitamin D in the relationship between sun exposure and decreased cancer risk has progressively accumulated, as associations were found between blood vitamin D levels and reduced risk of cancers.6, 7 Further support for the importance of vitamin D in cancer prevention was provided by randomized controlled trials of vitamin D supplementation that showed reduced cancer risk compared to placebo. There have also been many reports that vitamin D receptor gene mutations, which interfere with the normal biological actions of vitamin D, were associated with increased cancer risk.8-10
Additional studies confirmed that vitamin D has growth-inhibitory effects on cells derived from breast, colon, prostate, and skin cancers.11 Vitamin D can block cancer cell growth in a number of ways: Vitamin D alters the expression of genes that regulate inflammation, cell death and cell proliferation, and also interferes with the growth-promoting actions of IGF-1 and other growth factors. Additional anti-cancer effects of vitamin D include enhanced DNA repair and immune defenses, and angiogenesis inhibition.12
Today, over 800 scientific papers have been published on the relationship between vitamin D and cancers. We now have ample evidence that maintaining adequate vitamin D levels is an effective strategy for protection against cancer.
Considering all of this evidence, achieving vitamin D sufficiency is so very important. Unfortunately, the Institute of Medicine is hesitant to significantly raise its vitamin D recommendations, so most multivitamins still do not contain nearly enough vitamin D (only 400 IU) to offer the security that a normal Vitamin D level will be achieved. This is an important reason why I designed my new Men’s and Women’s Daily Formula + D multivitamins to include 2000 IU of vitamin D3. In my experience, 2000 IU has been an appropriate dose to bring most people into the favorable blood 25(OH)D range of 30-50 ng/ml (I also recommend getting a blood test to confirm adequate levels). These are the only multivitamin supplements with a 2000 IU dose of D3 plus no folic acid, betacarotene, copper, and vitamin A. This enables most people to get everything they need without needing to take multiple different products. For extra assurance, I’ve also utilized Vitamin D3 because of its highest biological value thus offering the most protection, which also is most effective for raising 25(OH)D levels.13 My goal is to make it as easy as possible to maintain healthy vitamin D levels, with plenty of D3 in a multivitamin which also gives you everything else that is worthy of supplementing, and carefully avoiding those supplemental ingredients that are potentially harmful; so additional supplements aren’t necessary to obtain the anti-cancer and bone-protective benefits of vitamin D and the other recommended nutrients.
1. Grant WB, Peris AN. Differences in vitamin D status may account for unexplained disparities in cancer survival rates between African and White Americans. DermatoEndocrinology 2012;4.
2. Garland CF, Garland FC. Do sunlight and vitamin D reduce the likelihood of colon cancer? Int J Epidemiol 1980;9:227-231.
3. Apperly FL. The Relation of Solar Radiation to Cancer Mortality in North America. Cancer Res 1941;1:191-195.
4. Grant WB, Garland CF. The association of solar ultraviolet B (UVB) with reducing risk of cancer: multifactorial ecologic analysis of geographic variation in age-adjusted cancer mortality rates. Anticancer Res 2006;26:2687-2699.
5. Grant WB. Ecological studies of the UVB-vitamin D-cancer hypothesis. Anticancer Res 2012;32:223-236.
6. Gandini S, Boniol M, Haukka J, et al. Meta-analysis of observational studies of serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels and colorectal, breast and prostate cancer and colorectal adenoma. Int J Cancer 2011;128:1414-1424.
7. Grant WB. Relation between prediagnostic serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D level and incidence of breast, colorectal, and other cancers. J Photochem Photobiol B 2010;101:130-136.
8. Kostner K, Denzer N, Muller CS, et al. The relevance of vitamin D receptor (VDR) gene polymorphisms for cancer: a review of the literature. Anticancer Res 2009;29:3511-3536.
9. Lappe JM, Travers-Gustafson D, Davies KM, et al. Vitamin D and calcium supplementation reduces cancer risk: results of a randomized trial. Am J Clin Nutr 2007;85:1586-1591.
10. Bolland MJ, Grey A, Gamble GD, et al. Calcium and vitamin D supplements and health outcomes: a reanalysis of the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) limited-access data set. Am J Clin Nutr 2011;94:1144-1149.
11. Fleet JC. Molecular actions of vitamin D contributing to cancer prevention. Mol Aspects Med 2008;29:388-396.
12. Fleet JC, DeSmet M, Johnson R, et al. Vitamin D and cancer: a review of molecular mechanisms. Biochem J 2012;441:61-76.
13. Tripkovic L, Lambert H, Hart K, et al. Comparison of vitamin D2 and vitamin D3 supplementation in raising serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D status: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr 2012.
Vitamin B12 is required for important biological functions like red blood cell production, nervous system function, and DNA synthesis. Deficiency in B12 can cause a variety of problems including anemia, depression, confusion, fatigue, digestive issues, and nerve damage. 
Vitamin B12 is scarce in plant-based diets, and is a common deficiency, especially in the elderly. Of course, diets low in animal products and high in unrefined plant foods dramatically reduce the risk of chronic disease, but these healthful diets do require a supplemental source of vitamin B12. The rates of deficiency increase with age, and about 20% of adults over the age of 60 are either insufficient or deficient in vitamin B12. Recent research has suggested that the current recommendations for B12 intake may be inadequate – not just for the elderly, but even for young people who have adequate absorption capability. Therefore supplementation with vitamin B12 is likely important for most people, and absolutely required for most vegans to achieve sufficient B12 status.
When vitamin B12 takes part in DNA synthesis, it helps to convert the amino acid homocysteine to methionine, therefore lowering homocysteine levels.  Elevated homocysteine is a known risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Since B12 is important for nervous system function, and many cardiovascular disease risk factors are also risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease, scientists hypothesized that adequate vitamin B12 levels would be protective, and elevated homocysteine would be detrimental with respect to the development of Alzheimer’s. They investigated the relationship between homocysteine, B12, and Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis in a group of 271 healthy older persons (65-79 years of age) over the course of 7 years. Elevated homocysteine was associated with increased risk, and increased B12 with decreased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. 
Future studies will evaluate the effectiveness of vitamin B12 supplementation as a preventive measure against dementia, but we don’t need to wait for those results – we already know that B12 is an important supplement to take, and Alzheimer’s prevention may turn out to be an added benefit of maintaining adequate B12 levels.
A health-promoting diet is the most effective way to maintain excellent health and protect against chronic diseases, including Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. But in order to enjoy the strongest protection possible, it is just as important to prevent deficiencies of certain nutrients that may be sub-optimal in an overall health-promoting diet, such as vitamin B12, zinc, DHA, and vitamin D, by taking the necessary supplements.
1. Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health. Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin B12. November 18, 2010]; Available from: http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB12/.
2. Allen, L.H., How common is vitamin B-12 deficiency? Am J Clin Nutr, 2009. 89(2): p. 693S-6S.
3. Bor, M.V., et al., Daily intake of 4 to 7 microg dietary vitamin B-12 is associated with steady concentrations of vitamin B-12-related biomarkers in a healthy young population. Am J Clin Nutr, 2010. 91(3): p. 571-7.
4. Hooshmand, B., et al., Homocysteine and holotranscobalamin and the risk of Alzheimer disease: a longitudinal study. Neurology, 2010. 75(16): p. 1408-14.
A study in Sweden examining the effects of zinc and the omega-3 fatty acid DHA on mortality in prostate cancer patients was presented at the American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting in April. Five-hundred twenty-five men with prostate cancer were followed for twenty years after being diagnosed with prostate cancer. Baseline dietary habits, stage of cancer at diagnosis, and deaths over the twenty years were recorded and analyzed.1
The authors chose to investigate these two nutrients because zinc and omega-3s share the common action of attenuating the inflammatory response, and chronic systemic inflammation may fuel prostate cancer progression. Importantly, zinc and DHA are both difficult to obtain on a plant-based diet.
Zinc is especially concentrated in the prostate, but zinc levels become depleted in cancerous cells. Addition of zinc to cultured prostate cancer cells leads to cell death, possibly by suppressing the activity of inflammatory molecules. A previous study found that long-term zinc supplementation was associated with reduced risk of advanced prostate cancer.2
In the current study, the researchers organized the study participants into quartiles according to their intakes of zinc and DHA. In men who were diagnosed at with early stage cancers, the highest quartile of zinc intake (15.7 mg zinc daily or more) was associated with a 74% reduction in risk of death from prostate cancer compared to the lowest quartile (12.8 mg zinc daily or less). Absorption of zinc tends to be low on a vegan diet – beans, whole grains, nuts, and seeds have high zinc content, however these foods also contain substances that inhibit the aborption of zinc.3 A 2009 study of vegetarians found a high prevalence of zinc deficiency.4 To correct for bioavailability, the zinc requirement for vegans may be as much as 50% higher than that of omnivores.5
I recommend zinc supplementation with a multivitamin and mineral to ensure sufficient zinc intake in vegans or those who minimize animal foods.
The connection between omega-3 intake and prostate cancer is somewhat complex. For example, flaxseed oil was found to increase prostate cancer risk, whereas whole flaxseed, EPA, and DHA were found to be protective.6,7,8 EPA and DHA are known to have anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties.9 In this study, the highest quartile of DHA intake was associated with 30% reduced risk of overall prostate cancer mortality, and a 45% risk reduction in men diagnosed at early stages, supporting the idea that DHA is protective against prostate cancer. Plant foods contain ALA, which can be elongated to DHA, but the major food source of DHA is fish, which often contains pollutants and is not acceptable for vegetarians and vegans. For these reasons, I recommend a laboratory cultivated DHA supplement made from micro-algae, which is also a more environmentally sustainable option than fish or fish oil.
1. Meyer MS, Kasperzyk JL, Andren O, et al. Anti-inflammatory nutrients and prostate cancer survival in the Örebro Prostate Cancer Survivors Cohort. [Abstract]. In: Proceedings of the 101st Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research; 2010 Apr 17-21; Washington, DC. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; 2010. Abstract nr 5747
MedPageToday. AACR: Zinc Linked to Prostate Cancer Survival. http://www.medpagetoday.com/MeetingCoverage/AACR/19685
2. Gonzalez A, Peters U, Lampe JW, White E. Zinc intake from supplements and diet and prostate cancer. Nutr Cancer. 2009;61(2):206-15.
3. Hunt JR. Bioavailability of iron, zinc, and other trace minerals from vegetarian diets. Am J Clin Nutr 2003;78(suppl):633S–9S.
4. de Bortoli MC, Cozzolino SM. Zinc and selenium nutritional status in vegetarians. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2009 Mar;127(3):228-33.
5. Frassinetti S, Bronzetti G, Caltavuturo L, et al. The role of zinc in life: a review. J Environ Pathol Toxicol Oncol. 2006;25(3):597-610.
6. Brouwer IA, Katan MB, Zock PL. Dietary alpha-linolenic acid is associated with reduced risk of fatal coronary heart disease, but increased prostate cancer risk: a meta-analysis. J Nutr 2004 Apr;134(4):919-22
7. Demark-Wahnefried W, Polascik TJ, George SL, et al. Flaxseed supplementation (not dietary fat restriction) reduces prostate cancer proliferation rates in men presurgery. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2008 Dec;17(12):3577-87.
8. Leitzmann MF, Stampfer MJ, Michaud DS, et al. Dietary intake of n-3 and n-6 fatty acids and the risk of prostate cancer. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Jul;80(1):204-16.
9. Spencer L, Mann C, Metcalfe M, et al. The effect of omega-3 FAs on tumour angiogenesis and their therapeutic potential. Eur J Cancer. 2009 Aug;45(12):2077-86.
It is imperative for me to make women aware that they may be endangering their health and the health of their unborn children by using conventional supplements.
Nearly all multivitamins and prenatal vitamins contain folic acid.
Unlike most physicians, I do not recommend folic acid supplementation for pregnant women. Folic acid supplementation can damage the health of women and their children.
Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate, a member of the family of B vitamins that is involved in regulating DNA synthesis and gene expression. Because of these crucial functions, folate plays an important role in fetal development - folate is essential during pregnancy, especially early on in pregnancy, for the prevention of neural tube defects. Folate is abundant in green vegetables like spinach, collards, bok choy, artichokes, and broccoli.
The Standard American Diet (SAD) is so nutritionally inadequate that the U.S. government and most physicians encourage women to take folic acid supplements, assuming that they do not eat green vegetables and are folate deficient.
Taking synthetic folic acid is not the same as getting natural folate from vegetables.
Scientific studies have revealed the dangers to women and their children involved in taking folic acid supplements:
- Women who followed the typical recommendations to take folic acid during pregnancy and were followed by researchers for thirty years were twice as likely to die from breast cancer.1 Another study following women for ten years concluded that those who took multivitamins containing folic acid increased their breast cancer risk by 20-30%.2 Folic acid in supplement form may contribute to producing a cancer-promoting environment in the body – in addition to breast cancer, synthetic folic acid has been linked to dramatic increases in prostate and colorectal cancers, as well as overall cancer incidence.3
- Folic acid supplementation by pregnant women has been associated with incidence of childhood asthma, infant respiratory tract infections, and cardiac birth defects.4
However, food folate is associated with benefits for both women and children:
- Women with lower levels of food folate intake are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer.5
- The children of women who consumed more food folate during pregnancy were less likely to develop ADHD.6
- Several studies have made connections between vegetable intake during pregnancy and lower risks of childhood cancers.7
This is too important an issue to ignore, and women are simply not told the facts here.
My Gentle Prenatal contains the same carefully designed combination of vitamins and minerals present in my original multivitamin and mineral, Gentle Care Formula, but has been uniquely tailored to the needs of child-bearing and pregnant women.
 Charles D et al. Taking folate in pregnancy and risk of maternal breast cancer. BMJ 2004;329:1375-6
 Stolzenberg-Solomon RZ et al. Folate intake, alcohol use, and postmenopausal breast cancer risk in the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Apr;83(4):895-904.
 Fife, J et al. Folic Acid Supplementation and Colorectal Cancer Risk; A Meta-analysis. Colorectal Dis. 2009 Oct 27. [Epub ahead of print]
Hirsch S et al. Colon cancer in Chile before and after the start of the flour fortification program with folic acid. Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2009 Apr;21(4):436-9.
Figueiredo JC et al. Folic acid and risk of prostate cancer: results from a randomized clinical trial. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2009 Mar 18;101(6):432-5. Epub 2009 Mar 10.
Ebbing M et al. Cancer Incidence and Mortality After Treatment With Folic Acid and Vitamin B12. JAMA. 2009;302(19):2119-2126
 Whitrow MJ. Effect of Supplemental Folic Acid in Pregnancy on Childhood Asthma: A Prospective Birth Cohort Study. Am J Epidemiol. 2009 Oct 30. [Epub ahead of print]
Haberg SE, London SJ, Stigum H, Nafstad P, Nystad W. Folic acid supplements in pregnancy and early childhood respiratory health. Arch Dis Child. 2009 Mar;94(3):180-4. Epub 2008 Dec 3.
Källén B. Congenital malformations in infants whose mothers reported the use of folic acid in early pregnancy in Sweden. A prospective population study. Congenit Anom (Kyoto). 2007 Dec;47(4):119-24.
 Sellers TA et al. Dietary folate intake, alcohol, and risk of breast cancer in a prospective study of postmenopausal women. Epidemiology. 2001 Jul;12(4):420-8.
Kim YI. Does a high folate intake increase the risk of breast cancer? Nutr Rev. 2006 Oct;64(10 Pt 1):468-75.
 Wiley-Blackwell (2009, October 28). Attention-deficit/hyperactivity Problems Associated With Low Folate Levels In Pregnant Women. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 5, 2010, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2009/10/091028134631.htm
 Kwan ML et al. Maternal diet and risk of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Public Health Rep. 2009 Jul-Aug;124(4):503-14.
Tower RL et al. The epidemiology of childhood leukemia with a focus on birth weight and diet. Crit Rev Clin Lab Sci. 2007;44(3):203-42.
Petridou E et al. Maternal diet and acute lymphoblastic leukemia in young children.Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2005 Aug;14(8):1935-9.
Jensen CD et al. Maternal dietary risk factors in childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (United States).Cancer Causes Control. 2004 Aug;15(6):559-70.
Huncharek M et al. A meta-analysis of maternal cured meat consumption during pregnancy and the risk of childhood brain tumors. Neuroepidemiology. 2004 Jan-Apr;23(1-2):78-84.
Both iron and copper serve vital functions, but as we age excess stores of these metals may build and become toxic. A report from the American Chemical Society1 suggests that iron and copper toxicity are unrecognized but significant threats to public health, in particular for adults over the age of 50.
Iron is crucial for oxygen transport and the proper function of several enzymes and proteins. Similarly, copper is also a component of enzymes that catalyze important reactions in several of the body’s cells and tissues. The human body evolved to store excess iron and copper to fuel these vital processes in case of extreme conditions like bleeding or famine, but their accumulation over time may be detrimental because both metals are involved in the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS).
It is now generally accepted that oxidative damage, a byproduct of oxygen-dependent energy production, contributes to chronic diseases and aging.
Oxidation of LDL cholesterol is one of the initial steps of atherosclerotic plaque development. Epidemiological associations between body stores of each of these metals and atherosclerosis have been found, and this is thought to be due to ROS production.2
Oxidative damage and depletion of the brain’s natural antioxidant defenses are implicated in the neurodegeneration associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Because the brain uses more oxygen and produces more energy than any other organ, it is the most vulnerable organ to oxidative damage. The high iron content of the brain, even higher in those with excessive iron stores, makes the brain even more vulnerable to oxidative stress.3
In people at least 65 years of age who consumed diets high in saturated and trans fats, copper intake was associated with accelerated cognitive decline. Copper bound to cholesterol is also commonly found in the β-amyloid plaques characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease.4
Excess quantities of these metals primarily come from meat, followed by multivitamin/multimineral supplements. Copper in supplements and drinking water is even more toxic than copper derived from food sources.1
The author of this new report has outlined steps that we can take to limit our exposure to copper and iron, including:
Avoiding or minimizing red meat consumption
Avoiding drinking water from copper pipes
Choosing a multivitamin that does not contain copper and iron.
Dr. Fuhrman designed his Gentle Care Formula multivitamin/multimineral to be free of potentially toxic ingredients like copper and iron.
1. American Chemical Society (2010, January 22). Consumers over age 50 should consider cutting copper and iron intake, report suggests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 29, 2010, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2010/01/100120113553.htm
Brewer GJ. Risks of Copper and Iron Toxicity during Aging in Humans. Chem Res Toxicol. 2009 Dec 7. [Epub ahead of print]
2. Brewer GJ. Iron and Copper Toxicity in Diseases of Aging, Particularly Atherosclerosis and Alzheimer’s Disease. Exp Biol Med 232 (2): 323. 2007
3. Kidd PM. Neurodegeneration from Mitochondrial Insufficiency: Nutrients, Stem Cells, Growth Factors, and Prospects for Brain Rebuilding Using Integrative Management. Alternative Medicine Review 2005;10(4):268-293
4. Morris MC et al. Dietary copper and high saturated and trans fat intakes associated with cognitive decline. Arch Neurol. 2006 Aug;63(8):1085-8.
Folic acid supplementation is dangerous – especially for pregnant women
In a 10-year study,1,2 scientists found that women who take multivitamins containing folic acid increase their breast cancer risk by 20-30%.
Even more alarming are the associations between supplemental folic acid during pregnancy and death from breast cancer,8 and asthma and respiratory tract infections in children.5-6
Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate, a B vitamin, which is abundant in green vegetables. Folate protects against birth defects known as neural tube defects (NTDs). Pregnant women could safely increase their folate status and prevent NTDs by eating green vegetables, but instead they are instructed to take folic acid supplements, putting them and their children at risk. Folic acid supplements are not a substitute for folate-containing green vegetables – there are inverse associations between maternal vegetable intake and childhood cancers.12-13
Unlike synthetic folic acid, folate obtained from food sources – especially green vegetables – protects against breast and prostate cancer.
There is inverse relationship between dietary folate intake and breast and prostate cancer.14,3 Chemical differences between folate and folic acid translate into differences in uptake and processing of these two substances by the cells in the intestinal wall – excess folic acid in the circulation can occur. Luckily, folate from food comes naturally packaged in balance with other micronutrients and the body regulates its absorption.9
Rich sources of food folate
As a reference point, the U.S. RDA for folate is 400μg. Below is the approximate folate content for a 100-calorie serving.8
Mustard greens, raw
Clearly, we do not need synthetic folic acid supplements to meet our daily folate requirements.
Supplemental folic acid has also been linked to prostate cancer3, colorectal cancer4, and overall cancer mortality.7 Because folate is abundant in the nutritarian diet, and synthetic folic acid is so potentially dangerous, folic acid is not included in Dr. Fuhrman’s Gentle Care multivitamin.
Dr. Fuhrman does not recommend prenatal vitamins because of the potentially harmful ingredients, such as folic acid.
Dr. Fuhrman’s special recommendations for pregnant women:
- Gentle Care Formula
- Iron supplementation (approx. 30 mg/day when needed)
- DHA Purity
- A nutrient dense diet, rich in green vegetables (and folate)