Sunday, October 10, 2010

supplements, free radicals, and anti-oxidants

i have colleagues who, as trainers, wish to help their clients and friends by also supplementing their incomes passively. so they sell or market supplements, either muscle building or immunity-enhancing or disease-reducing "proprietary blends" that have an ounce of science and a ton of marketing behind them. just the other day, a close associate was discussing with me the prospect of getting involved in a multi-level marketing scheme of scientific-sounding anti-oxidants but was rightfully investigating its authenticity before jumping in. he wanted my opinion. that was before i read this article: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/10/06/phys-ed-free-the-free-radicals/?src=un&feedurl=http%3A%2F%2Fjson8.nytimes.com%2Fpages%2Fmagazine%2Findex.jsonp

my opinion was this: maybe it works but science has a way of isolating out of natural products or foods items or components of items believed to be the reason the natural products or foods are thought to be healthful. that is, take the C and E out of fruits and veggies, compress them into pills with megadoses way beyond those you can eat, and hope for miracle cures. but, studies just don't support most of these claims. in fact as i've reported previously, the latest data, based on multiple studies and combined data from multiple studies, shows that a multi-vitamin pill confers no health benefits vis a vis cancer or heart disease. (the only caveat here is, of course, when people eat restricted diets - vegetarians, for ex, need iron, zinc, and B12 from pills. and there are other limiters that might require supplementation.)

the article link above confirms that our bodies are pretty good at taking care of business. exercise, which produces tons of free radicals, that otherwise would be destructive, actually enhances our body's ability to manage them via internal mechanisms. and when you over supply the body with exogenous (outside the body) anti-oxidants, guess what happens: you become less adept at removing these by-products and also less adaptive to the benefits of the exercise itself.

it also confirms what those stodgy old dietitians have been claiming for eons: food is the best medicine. not supplements - which cannot be 'natural' because natural is food, and pills are super-concentrated versions of only one or a few elements contained in food.

so, once again, the age-old, 5 food group recipe stands firm: eat your fruits, eat your veggies, get your calcium from dairy - and don't try to tell me mankind can't get the nutrients from cows - we've been doing it since the first time a thirsty ancestor went up to a cow or camel and drank from its teat. very few of us are truly lactose intolerant and even fewer are allergic but the rest of us can handle it just fine. (in fact, low fact chocolate milk is now the premier post-workout beverage for strength athletes...and some would contend for cardio athletes, too.)

one last note. don't be surprised if you hear, soon, about the necessity if not the recommendation to eat more saturated fats. it's all aristotlean: everything in moderation. why is it we americans keep taking things to the extreme?

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Dr.Irv