Nutrient Recommendations from Both Sides of the Atlantic

News on recommended vitamin levels by Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD

The European Food Safety Authority has weighed in on the debate about how much vitamin D, calcium, and essential fatty acids can be taken safely over the long term. These recommendations, which are issued by the Institute of Medicine in the United States as well, are known as tolerable upper intake levels (ULs). The science on nutrient safety isn’t always 100% clear, so it can be helpful to consider where different panels of health experts around the globe set these limits.

Compare and contrast

The upper end of safe intakes for most nutrients are not ordinarily reached or surpassed by people eating a typical diet in Europe or the US. For the majority, food alone will not put a person in danger of nutrient toxicity. But when adding dietary supplements and fortified foods, upper intake levels are needed to protect people against toxicity. We can use these numbers to guide our choices for safe use of dietary supplements and fortified foods.

Here’s how tolerable upper intake levels compare on both sides of the Atlantic:

Vitamin D

  • The UL for children 11 years old and up and adults is 4,000 IU per day in the US and in Europe.
  • The UL for 8- to 11-year-olds is 4,000 IU per day in the US, though in Europe, the UL for this age group is lower, at 2,000 IU daily.
  • The UL for 1- to 10-year-old children is 2,000 IU per day in Europe, though in the US this age group is broken down further. In the US the UL is 2,520 IU per day for 1- to 3-year-olds, 3,000 IU per day for 4- to 8-year-olds, and 4,000 IU per day for 9- to 13-year-olds.
  • The UL for infants—children under 1 year old—is 1,000 IU per day in Europe, though in the US, again, this age group is broken down further; the UL is 1,000 IU per day for newborns up to 6 months, and increases to 1,520 IU daily for infants 6 months to 1 year old.

Calcium

  • In Europe, the UL for calcium is simple: 2,500 mg per day for all adults.
  • For children, the European Food Safety Authority has indicated that, “Although available data do not allow the setting of a UL for infants, children, or adolescents, no risk has been identified with highest current levels of calcium intake in these age groups.”
  • In the US, the calcium ULs are broken down by age, with daily levels set at:
    • Newborns to 6 months: 1,000 mg
    • 6 months to 1 year: 1,500 mg
    • 1 year to 8 years: 2,500 mg
    • 9 to 18 years: 3,000 mg
    • Adults up to 50 years: 2,500 mg
    • Adults 51 years and older: 2,000 mg
    • Pregnant and breastfeeding women, 18 years and older: 2,500 mg
    • Pregnant and breastfeeding women, younger than 18 years: 3,000 mg

Essential fatty acids

  • The European Food Safety Authority states that there isn’t enough scientific evidence to set safe upper limit values for essential fatty acids, which include the long-chain omega-3 fats found in fish and seafood. However, they indicate that supplementing up to 5 grams per day appears to be safe, and recommend all adults get a minimum of 250 to 500 mg of these omega-3 fats daily for good health.
  • In the US, there are no official safe upper limits for essential fats, though the FDA indicates that intakes up to 3 grams per day are safe. The American Heart Association indicates that aiming for 900 mg per day of omega-3 fats—the amount that research suggests can lessen cardiovascular disease risk—is a good goal for all Americans.

Supplement with savvy, factor in fortification

There is much overlap between the safe upper limits for vitamin D, calcium, and essential fatty acids set by health agencies in Europe and in the US. Where these numbers diverge, you should consult your doctor or dietitian with any questions you have about how much of these nutrients are safe for you.

Also keep in mind the following points as you plan out your nutrition choices:

  • Use safe upper limits. These are set to provide guidance on appropriate nutrient intakes for the general population. There are always exceptions: for example, higher levels might be needed to address deficiency. Also, higher amounts may be needed to treat a particular medical condition. Consult your doctor or dietitian if you feel you need higher levels of any nutrient.
  • Keep track of all sources of nutrient intake. Many foods are now fortified with calcium, vitamin D, and/or essential fatty acids. If you use fortified foods, you may not need any dietary supplements of these nutrients at all.
  • Go to food first. Most nutrients are best absorbed, and occur in safe amounts, in their naturally occurring form in food. For example, our bodies do best with calcium from dairy, green leafy vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds, rather than larger quantities of calcium taken all at once as a dietary supplement.
  • Remember balance. Sometimes, taking large quantities of one nutrient can make it harder for our bodies to absorb or use other important nutrients. Before you supplement single nutrients, talk with a knowledgeable doctor about getting a good balance of all vital nutrients.

(European Food Safety Authority, “Upper intake levels reviewed for vitamin D and calcium” http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/press/news/120727a.htm and “EFSA assesses safety of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids” http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/press/news/120727.htm published July 2012)

Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD, an author, speaker, and internationally recognised expert in chronic disease prevention, epidemiology, and nutrition, has taught medical, nursing, public health, and alternative medicine coursework. She has delivered over 150 invited lectures to health professionals and consumers and is the creator of a nutrition website acclaimed by the New York Times and Time magazine. Suzanne received her training in epidemiology and nutrition at the University of Michigan, School of Public Health at Ann Arbor.<

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Herbal remedies are here to stay (some of them)

Did you know that one 1/4 of people in the UK use herbal medicines? That’s over 15 million people!

It might explain why there’s been something of a flurry concerning new laws at the end of April 2011 regularising herbal medicine.

Positives and negatives
The benefit is that herbal remedies must come under safety guidelines. The negative is that not every herb currently used will make the grade, which may put some people at a disadvantage. And, as with other medicines, it also doesn’t prove that the herb will work for you.

What this means
Basically, licensed herbals must now carry a ‘THR’ mark (Traditional Herbal Registration). You’ll see a lot of repackaged herbal solutions on the market.

For example, Higher Nature, a well reputed provider of supplements, has just brought out its Licensed Herbals range. These include:

■ Black Cohosh Menopause Relief
Devil’s Claw Muscle & Joint Pain Relief
■ Echinacea Cold & Flu Relief
■ Feverfew Migraine Relief
■ Milk Thistle (for relief from over-indulgence of drink and food)
■ Passionflower Relax Aid
■ Pelargonium Cold Relief
Rhodiola Stress Relief
■ St John’s Wort Mood Uplift
■ Valerian Sleep Aid

There might still be other ways of consuming herbs which aren’t registered, for example the herbs may well be able to be consumed as food or in teas, as long as they’re not trying to be medicinal – and this too might mean that we see some ‘interesting’ new foods on the market…

Tablet to keep the mind active not naturally available in UK

Ginkgo biloba is the world’s oldest type of tree (the Maidenhair tree). Now humans are harvesting these 1000 year old trees to look after them in old age.

Ginkgo Biloba, leaves from the oldest tree help with old age
Ginkgo Biloba, leaves from the oldest tree help with old age

The leaves are used for impaired memory, poor concentration and circulation, particularly to hands and feet.

However, the trees are not natural to the UK, which means you won’t find it readily available in your diet. To gain the benefits of ginkgo biloba the best advice is for you to take it in tablet form.

After all to get anywhere near 1000 years old, you’re going to need some help aren’t you?

A course of biloba supplements keeps your blood vessels elastic and helps prevent blood clotting. Their powerful antioxidant property can keep your mind and body operating efficiently in old age.

In fact a British study of biloba products revealed that Bio-Biloba has the highest antioxidant activity of all.

Biloba is also good for treating depression, Alzheimer’s, glaucoma, vertigo and vitiligo. If you want an aid in fighting the free-radicals which lead to deterioration in later years it’s worth investing in nature’s oldest remedy.

7 out of 10 people over 45 have high cholesterol

All Cholesterol is not equal

Cholesterol cannot disolve but is carried around our blood stream by lipoproteins, it is these lipids which determine wheather the cholesterol is good or bad.  We know that not all cholesterol is equal, and to make it clear, in cholesterol terms LDL (low-density lipoprotein) is bad and HDL (high-density lipoprotein) is good cholesterol.  So if you are suffering from high cholesterol levels (Hypercholesterolemia) in your blood it is the LDL’s you want to reduce.

Lets look at the goodies first –  HDL. Just over a quarter of blood cholesterol is carried around our blood stream by high-density lipoprotein. High levels of HDL seem to protect against heart attack, whereas low levels of HDL (less than 40 mg/dL) also increase the risk of heart disease. Medical experts think that HDL tends to carry cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver, where it’s passed from the body. Some experts believe that HDL removes excess cholesterol from arterial plaque which in turn slows its buildup. I think we will all agree that that does sound good.

On the other hand –   LDL carries cholesterol in the blood, depositing it on the inner walls of the arteries that feed the heart and brain. Together with other substances, it can form plaque, a thick, hard deposit that can narrow the arteries and make them less flexible. This condition is known as atherosclerosis. If a clot forms and blocks a narrowed artery, heart attack or stroke can result.

So how can we reduce LDL?

What you eat can have a significant effect on your cholesterol levels.  There are 5 main food groups that have been identified as being able to help reduce LDL cholesterol.  These are Oatbran or other soluble fibre, walnuts and almonds, oily fish with omega-3’s and plant sterols.  The first 4 are often mentioned so I wanted to tell a little more about plant sterols.

Plant Sterols may lower bad cholesterol by as much as 9%

Phytosterols may lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol by as much as 9%, according to a new study reported on by Dr Jane Hart.

Such plant sterols or phytosterols are naturally found in some vegetable oils, fruits, nuts, grains and vegetables, but in such small amounts that it would be difficult to get the sterols you need to reduce your LDL cholesterol just from a normal balanced diet. In fact it would take about 100 pounds of fruits, vegetables or nuts to get 2 grams of natural plant sterols. So some large margerine and dairy drinks manufacturers have added plant sterols to their wares.  This is commendable and does go some way to answering the problem but such foods containing at least 0.4 grams per serving of plant sterols would need to be eaten twice a day with meals for a daily total intake of at least 0.8 grams, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol,and that may well reduce the risk of heart disease.

Another way to make sure you get enough phytosterols often enought and consistently enough to make a difference is to take them as a food supplement.

Lestrin

walnuts
walnuts

– a food supplement containg Beta-sitosteral a naturally cocurring plant substance.. Lestrin delivers plant sterols in a unique tablet form, meanig you do not have to uptake your diary intake to contribute to your sterols intake. Lestrin contains free sterols as opposed to chemically changed sterols and is suitable for vegetarians. Whereas most dairy products on offer with sterols contain  chemically changed sterols which have been shown to be less effective than ‘free’ sterols. Not only do plant sterols reduce LDL levels but also increase HDL levels and so bring relevant imporrovements in health.

Lestrin definitely offers an easier way to control cholesterol levels without having to uptake intake of certain food groups and maintain these changes long term.

By lowering chelesterol levels, improvements in health are attained and heart protecion offered for the future.

Read more about lowering cholesterol

Supplements for Women

Whatever your time of life there is something to help…

PMS, Conception and Pregnancy

  • Chasteberry (agnus castus) has shown itself effective for the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, also try black cohosh. Evening primrose oil and vitamin B6 relieve breast tenderness and mood swings in some women, while calcium and magnesium supplements can help ease cramps.
  • Supplement with folic acid for three months before conception and continue during pregnancy.
  • For morning sickness try ginger or acupressure wristbands.
  • Eat oily fish or take a fish oil supplement (not cod liver oil) as the essential fatty acid they contain is vital to brain development in your growing baby.
  • Raspberry leaf tea can help prepare you for labour but should only be drunk in the last couple of months of pregnancy.
  • Specially-formulated pregnancy supplements are available that provide the combination of nutrients needed to help ensure a healthy mother and baby.

    Menopause Moments

  • Black cohosh is useful for mood swings and night sweats; evening primrose oil or borage oil for breast pain and fatigue; agnus castus, which helps stabilise hormone levels; red clover and soya for their phytoestrogens; and essential fatty acids for mood swings and concentration.

    Get Good Bones

  • Eat calcium-rich foods (for example green leafy vegetables such as broccoli and spinach) and consider a calcium supplement combined with vitamin D.
  • The minerals boron, magnesium and zinc are also necessary for bone health so consider supplementing with an appropriate multi-vitamin and mineral formulation.
  • Glucosamine has been shown to maintain healthy joints.
  • Weight-bearing exercise – such as walking, aerobics, running – is also important as it strengthens your bones while stimulating the creation of new bone.

    Stresses of Life…

    Do you smoke? Take at least an extra 200mg vitamin C daily (smoking Increases body requirements for vitamin C).

    Do you drink? Consider milk thistle and dandelion to detox your liver and kidneys, vitamin C and a fish oil supplement to improve your concentration.

    Natural Lifestyle © Natural Lifestyle Magazine in connection with Natural Health Week

  • Holiday Travel Bag

    Going on holiday is an exciting time – once everything is packed! Our healthy holiday checklist will help you have a holiday with a difference…

    Everyone looks forward to a well-deserved holiday. Have you been holding onto the hope of some time relaxing, away from the humdrum of home, being in a new environment, and seeing some new sights? It’s hardly surprising, then, that we want our holidays to go without any hiccups, which is why it’s so important to do plenty of preparation….And there are some wonderful alternatives to conventional products.

    Get your gut prepared!

    If you want to avoid a dodgy digestive system while you’re away, you should take time to build up good levels of friendly bacteria in your digestive system. The easy way is to take a supplement including acidophilus and bifidobacteria, in the weeks leading up to your holiday. There is no reason why you shouldn’t take a probiotic drink or yoghurt in addition.

    Building up levels of good bacteria will increase resistance to the effects of a change in diet, stress (leading up to a holiday) and drinking water supply. On this note, always make sure that you take a couple of bottles of drinking water in your luggage – just in case the water is foul when you get there. Don’t forget to pack your favourite drink. We’re renowned for complaining about a lack of decent tea, so take a box of organic breakfast tea with you! This should be permitted in most countries, but if you’re unsure, contact your travel agent.

    Sick of travelling?

    Have you ever sat in a car, on a train, on a boat or a plane feeling really, really sick? This awful feeling is caused by conflicting messages being sent to the brain by the eyes, stomach and the organs of balance in the ears.

    If you are prone to travel sickness, eat a light carbohydrate meal before travelling (such as cereal, toast, rice cakes or pasta), avoid greasy food and alcohol and before travelling take anti-motion sickness remedies according to the instructions. There are a number of natural remedies available such as ginger, (as capsules or tablets) or peppermint capsules. Products which work on acupressure points (often as a wrist band) are popular, and work by nerves carrying pressure messages which reach the brain faster than other messages such as pain or nausea.

    You clot!

    It might be quiet in the media, but Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) is still a concern for people with any risk of blood clotting. Taking a low dose aspirin before the flight can help, as can graduated flight socks which compress the foot, ankle and calf (otherwise, wear loose clothing). Think ahead and, if you need to, book an aisle seat in advance so you have room to move. Three months before you go away, consider supplementing with 800iu daily of vitamin E, to help thin the blood (check with your GP first if you are on anticoagulant medication).

    Irritating insects!

    Here we have it… the downside to exotic places. Malaria is a risk in more than 100 countries, and other flying insects (which can be really irritating) are almost everywhere on the planet. The solution? repellents – which include agents that insects find repulsive. Naturopaths have been recommending natural remedies for years. Vitamin B1, in high intakes of around 80-100mg daily (for at least a month), makes the blood distasteful. Natural insect repellents don’t contain any harsh chemical ingredients which could irritate sensitive skin. Instead, they might use essential oils such as mint, basil, thyme and a lemon (or include citridiol) or eucalyptus. Some are suitable for babies (but check the product labels to make sure). If you do get bitten, use calamine lotion and ice. Menthol spray reduces itching and arnica reduces inflammation. Pyrethrum is also a homeopathic remedy which can be used to relieve insect bites and stings (pain and inflammation).

    Sun-worshippers survival kit

    If you love the sun on your skin, it’s vital that you apply sun lotions to prevent skin damage – especially between 11am and 3pm.

    30 days before you go away, supplement with a carotenoid formula (look for the word Betatene). This can give your skin a natural sun protection factor (SPF) of between 2 and 4. Don’t forget to use high quality sun lotions – with an SPF of at least 15. Health stores stock sun lotions which are organically made. These are ideal for people who have highly sensitive skin, or who want to use more natural ingredients. Don’t forget to protect your lips! Some balms found in health stores now also have an SPF of 15 to 18 and could even be tinted so you wear it like a lipstick!

    Cool it!

    It takes, on average, three days for people to relax when they go on holiday. It seems that many of us are so held together with pent-up stress, that it takes a while to downshift our bodies and our minds. It’s time for action!

    To calm: Mandarin essential oil is a very safe oil and can be used for children, the elderly and pregnant women (use two to three drops on a handkerchief). With Ginger, it’s great for travel sickness.

    To relax: Salt brush with Dead Sea salts. This will help to give you healthy, glowing skin and will help your muscles to relax.

    For muscle tension: There are all kinds of natural muscle rubs, including warming essential oils, menthol and conditioning oils. Not to be missed!

    Don’t forget…

    Refresh!… Don’t forget your crystal-based deodorant, or those enhanced with essential oils. Lemon ones are good, as they are naturally insect-repellent! Take a couple of natural face packs with you for a relaxing afternoon in.

    Have a great drink… Make the most of the hot weather by drinking lots of cordials, squashes and flavoured waters. Avoid carbonated drinks (high sugar, high acid). Try to drink at least 10 glasses of water-based drinks each day.

    On the move munchies… Healthy snacks just can’t be beaten. Go for packaged cereal bars, nut bars, low salt crisps or vegetable chips. Rice cakes and crackers are great too. Some countries/airlines are very fussy about open packets of food, so finish them before you leave the UK.

    A new start?… Why not have a holiday with a difference. Without the hassles of being at home, it’s a great opportunity to resolve to eat better, drink more water, eat simple and easy to digest foods and even, perhaps, do a detox. Take a 3 day detox kit with you – which will make it easy to implement.

    Natural Lifestyle © Natural Lifestyle June 2005 in connection with Natural Health Week

    Calcium

    Calcium is the most abundant metallic mineral in the body. A person weighing 11 stone houses 1200g of calcium!. Approximately 1100g will be in the skeleton and teeth and the rest distributed between the nerves, muscle and blood.

    The bones and teeth serve as storage sites for calcium in its insoluble form of calcium phosphate in the bone. There is a constant interchange between calcium phosphate in the bone and ionic calcium (soluble) in the bloodstream.

    Up to 400 mg of calcium is lost daily in the faeces and 350 mg in urine. This increases in summertime and after the menopause in women. This means that 0.05% of calcium is lost daily.

    During pregnancy, the foetus absorbs 30 mg of calcium daily through the placenta and during lactation, the mothers milk supplies 300 mg daily.

    A UK study of over 800 people indicated that 73% of the women tested had an intake below the 800mg RDA.

    Calcium is derived only from the diet, but drinking water can be a significant source, especially in hard water areas. It is also present in some mineral waters.

    Natural Sources

    Dairy foods – milk, cheese, milk by-products (especially dried skimmed milk), pulses (particularly soya beans), whole grain cereals, root vegetables, molasses, nuts, fish (especially canned where bones are soft and edible), tofu and white bread (calcium is added to white flour in the UK by requirement of law)

    Its Function In The Body

    Calcium is the structural component of the bones  and teeth.

    1. Calcium acts as a nerve impulse transmitter. When a nerve impulse arrives at a junction of nerve and muscle, it causes calcium to be liberates as free ions. The ions act on the muscle and cause contraction.
    2. It plays a part in the clotting of blood. Calcium activates proteins that coagulate to form a blood clot.
    3. Calcium helps in the absorption of vitamin B12.

    Diseases Linked with Deficiency

    Osteoporosis – the most common bone disease but one of the most difficult to treat. It is caused by a lack of calcium uptake by the bone, giving a “honeycombing” effect, reducing the bone mass and weakening the skeletal structure, so increasing the risk of fracture.

    35-40% of women over 65 suffer fractures of forearm, femur and vertebrae because of osteoporosis.

    1. Periodontal Disease – an early warning sign in the gums of osteoporosis.
    2. Hypertension – studies indicate improvement of the condition with supplementation. This is especially important to those avoiding dairy foods because of a low fat/low cholesterol diet.
    3. Tetany – spasm and twitching of the muscles.

    Who Requires Supplementation?

    • Vegans
    • Those allergic to milk products
    • Over 55’s, especially women
    • Pregnant and lactating women
    • Heavy alcohol users
    • Drug users such as prednisolone. Some diuretics, some laxatives
    • Sufferers from chronic wasting illnesses
    • Coeliacs and those suffering from fat malabsorbtion
    • Slimmers or heart patients on low fat/low cholesterol diets
    • Those on a poor diet or eating mainly processed and refined foods
    • Convalescents from surgery, burns or injuries
    • People under particular stress

    Notes of Supplementation

    • Lactating women should consult a doctor as to dosage. Megadoses should be avoided by both pregnant and lactating women.
    • Calcium should be stored in a cool, dry area away from direct light.
    • Calcium should not be taken within 1 hour of eating a meal or taking other medicines.
    • Calcium is not easily absorbed, so larger doses are needed.
    • Excess amounts are readily excreted to there is no danger of overdosing excepting as in point 1