Tag Archives: monica reinagel

Reinagel Ponders Whether Calcium Supplements Are Safe


Death in a bottle?

Death in a bottle?

Monica Reinagel is a smart and media-savvy nutritionist who brought me on board as a blogger at NutritionData many years ago. Click the link below for her surprising conclusion on calcium supplementation.

Monica writes:

“The National Osteoporosis Foundation published a new report this week, insisting that calcium supplements are safe for your heart. Two weeks ago, Johns Hopkins cardiologist Erin Michos published a paper saying the opposite.

She claims that the NOF review (which was funded by a pharmaceutical company that makes calcium supplements) omitted certain studies (such as the ones she included in her own review) that might have changed the conclusion.

These are just the latest two volleys in a five-year-long tennis match between experts on whether you should or shouldn’t take calcium supplements.  And you thought politics was divisive.”

Source: Calcium Supplements: Safe or Not?

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Filed under Heart Disease

Do We Need Supplements Because Our Soils are Depleted?

In my recent review of The Blood Sugar Solution, I noted the numerous supplements recommended by Dr. Mark Hyman: between 11 and 16 supplements.  And one of those supplements is a multivitamin/multimineral supplement that has 20 or so different components.

One reason we need the supplements, according to Dr. Hyman, is because the soils in which we grow food over the years has been depleted of minerals and other basic plant building blocks.

I know one doctor who told his patients the same thing while selling them over-priced supplements straight from his office.  According to the reviews of Dr. Hyman’s book at Amazon.com, Dr. Hyman sells supplements at his website.  The guy’s got an impressive marketing machine!

So is there any truth to the “soil depletion” argument for supplements?

Not much, if any, according to Monica Reinagel.  She reviewed the topic in 2010 at her Nutrition Diva blog: http://nutritiondiva.quickanddirtytips.com/are-fruits-and-vegetables-getting-less-nutritious.aspx.  I trust Monica.  In the same article, you’ll find links to her opinion on whether organic vegetables are healthier and worth the cost.

I’ve not done a comprehensive review of the soil depletion issue myself.   It’s quite a difficult area to research; try it and you’ll see.  The Soil Science Society of America, founded in 1936, sounds like a great place to find the answer.  No such luck.

The U.S. is a huge country with lots of different soil types and usage histories.   Soils in one field may be depleted in certain components whereas the field across the road may be quite rich.  Soils are not static.  Farmers are always making amendments to the soil, either with fertilizers or other additives, or by rotating crops.

Wouldn’t you think farmers, whether small family units or huge corporate enterprises, would do what’s necessary to keep their soils productive?

Another way to look at soil depletion would be to look at the nutrient content of the plants and animals that depend on soil for life.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture did that in its 2004 publication, “Nutrient Content of the U.S. Food Suppy, 1909-2000.”  This paper includes 10 vitamins and nine minerals.  For the boring details, see   http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/publications/foodsupply/foodsupply1909-2000.pdf.   Some excerpts:

Levels for most vitamins and minerals were higher in 2000 than in 1909.

Levels for vitamin B12 and potassium were lower in 2000 than in 1909, but over the series, met or exceeded current recommendations for a healthy diet….

The authors attibute lower potassium availability to lower consumption of plant foods, especially fresh potatoes.  I’m increasingly interested in the possibilty that low potassium consumption may contribute to heart disease and premature death.  But that’s a topic for another day.

I’m skeptical about claims of widespread soil depletion in the U.S. as a cause of food supply degradation.  Supplement sellers are sure to disagree.  To be sure you’re getting the nutrients you need, eat a wide variety of foods.

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: The American Council on Science and Health has a brief article on whether everybody needs a multivitamin/multimineral supplement.

New research is questioning the benefits of taking supplemental vitamins and minerals, suggesting that, for the general population, such supplements may actually pose more risks than benefits.

Click for the full article: http://www.acsh.org/factsfears/newsid.3067/news_detail.asp

PPS:  Oregon State University’s Linus Pauling Institute published a long article on the multivitamin/multimineral supplement issue.  It seems fairly balanced to me.  The Institute notes the 2006 National Institutes of Health assessment that we have insufficient evidence to recommend either for  or against such supplementation (Annals of Internal Medicine, 145(5), 2006: 364-371).  Nevertheless, the Linus Pauling Institute recommends supplementation as “insurance.”  You know, just in case.


Filed under Supplements

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Olives But Were Afraid to Ask…

Olives and olive oil are iconic components of the the Mediterranean diet.  Nutrition Diva Monica Reinagel has a wonderful post about olives and olive oil.  What are the best olives to eat?  How are olives processed?  Are olives more heathful than olive oil?  Click through for the answers.

-Steve Parker, M.D.


Filed under Mediterranean Diet

Book Review: Secrets of a Healthy Diet: What to Eat, What to Avoid, and What to Stop Worrying About

I recently read Secrets for a Healthy Diet: What to Eat, What to Avoid, and What to Stop Worrying About by Monica Reinagel (2011).  It’s aimed at the general public rather than people with diabetes or overweight.  I give it five stars on Amazon’s rating system (I love it). 

♦   ♦   ♦

This indispensible book cuts through the malarky of nearly all recent nutrition fads, sharing with us the science-based nutrition ideas that prevent disease and prolong life.  If you’re eating the Standard American Diet (SAD), you need this book.  The author gives highly practical suggestions on how to make your diet healthier immediately. 

In short, Ms. Reinagel focuses on minimally processed, whole foods, and preparing your own meals.  But there’s so much more here.  As you might expect, the Mediterranean diet was discussed very favorably.

I’ve been following Monica Reinagel’s nutrition writing carefully for the last three years.  She knows the nutrition science literature as well as anyone, if not better.

The book starts with an unusually detailed table of contents that helps you find what you’re interested in without wasting time.

As promised by the subtitle, the author tells you what you DON’T need to worry about.  Is mercury in fish a problem?  What about bisphenol-A in plastic containers and canned foods?  Does red meat cause cancer?  Is pesticide residue on our food a problem?  Is salt a killer?  

I stay up to date on nutrition much more than the average physician, but the author introduced me to several new concepts, such as hemp milk, oat milk, and the idea that “pregnant women and small children should avoid cured meats altogether.”  I was particularly interested in her thoughts on the intersection of nutrition and exercise since I recently started an exercise program called Core Performance.

She successfully debunks many nutrition myths, such as 1) the need to eat every 2-3 hours, 2) saturated fat is bad for your heart and arteries, 3) eggs are bad for you (too much cholesterol, you know), 4) grain products are essential for health.

Any deficiencies in the book?  The font size is on the small side for people over 45.  On page 150, vitamin K is confused with vitamin D – undoubtedly a simple misprint.  No mention of the raw milk controversy.  When discussing potassium chloride as a salt substitute, she doesn’t mention the potential risk to people with kidney impairment or taking certain fluid pills. Tips on how to select fresh fish would have been helpful.

In summary, this is a great book for anyone wanting to get healthier via nutrition, but who’s confused by all the recent controversies.  The book is without peer.  If everything you learned about healthy eating was acquired over 10 years ago, you’re way out of date and need this book.  I hope the author does an updated edition every five years or so.

Steve Parker, M.D., author of Conquer Diabetes and Prediabetes: The Low-Carb Mediterranean Diet and The Advanced Mediterranean Diet: Lose Weight, Feel Better, Live Longer.

Disclosure: Other than a free advance review copy of the book from the publisher, I received nothing of value for writing this review.


Filed under Book Reviews

Fiber and Systemic Inflammation

mpj0433185000011High dietary fiber intake helps prevent constipation, diverticular disease, hemorrhoids, irritable bowel syndrome, and perhaps colon polyps.

Soluble fiber helps control blood sugar levels in people with diabetes, and it reduces LDL cholesterol levels, thereby reducing risks of coronary heart disease.

An article in the journal Nutrition suggests how fiber may have beneficial effects in atherosclerosis (the cause of heart attacks and strokes), type 2 diabetes, and some cancers.  These conditions are felt to be related to underlying systemic inflammation.

Systemic inflammation can be judged by blood levels of inflammatory markers such as interleukin-6, tumor necrosis factor-alpha-receptor-2, and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein.

Researchers looked at 1,958 postmenopausal women in the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study, comparing inflammatory marker levels with dietary fiber intake.  They found that high fiber intake was associated with significantly lower levels of inflammatory markers interleukin-6 and tumor necrosis factor-alpha-receptor-2.  This association was true individually for total fiber, insoluble fiber, and soluble fiber.  The researchers found no association with C reactive protein.

Bottom line?

High intake of dietary fiber seems to reduce chronic inflammation, which may, in part, explain the observed clinical benefits of fiber.

Average adult fiber intake in the U.S. is 12 to 15 grams daily.  Expert nutrition panels and the American Heart Association recommend 25 to 30 grams daily from whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

Nutritionist Monica Reinagel at NutritionData.com has reviewed soluble vs insoluble fiber and good sources of soluble fiber:  oranges, apples, carrots, oats and oat bran, psyllium husk, nuts, legumes, and flaxseed.  Click the link for good sources of insoluble fiber.

Rest assured that the Mediterranean diet is naturally high in fiber.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Reference:  Ma, Yensheng, et al.  Association between dietary fiber and markers of systemic inflammation in the Women’s Health Initiative Observational StudyNutrition, 24 (2008): 941-949.


Filed under Fiber

Dr. Steve Parker Now Blogging Also at NutritionData.com

I am pleased and honored to be blogging for the next three months with the merry band of bloggers at NutritionData.com.  I’ve been visiting and recommending ND for years.

I will be writing in the NutritionData Heart Health Blog.

My compadres at ND are

  • Monica Reinagel, M.S., L.D.N., C.N.S.; ND’s chief nutritionist and a prolific author
  • Dana Lilienthal, M.S., R.D.
  • Stephen Cabral, C.S.C.S, C.P.T., N.S.
  • Elaine Murphy, B.A., C.N.C.

[Gee, now I feel like I need more letters after my name!]

Please take time to visit the NutritionData website, or see my review of it here.  The site is frequently updated and improved, so my review may be outdated.

I’ll still be posting here at my usual frequency, about twice weekly.

Steve Parker, M.D.

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