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  • The Little-Known Nutrient Critical to Your Bone Health

    We all know how important calcium is for optimal bone health.

    Foods such as leafy greens and low-fat dairy are often recommended as bone building powerhouses.

    Yet, despite all the press that calcium gets, it is not the only important nutrient when it comes to building and maintaining strong bones. Continue reading

  • Do You Need to Supplement?

    Not everyone needs to supplement, but if you care about your bones you should. That's because we don't get enough of the nutrients we need for bone from food. Here are some other situations where you should supplement.
  • Before You Throw Out Your Multivitamin, Read This….

    Headlines are reporting that multivitamins are a waste of money. That may be true – but not because we don’t need to supplement when we have a dietary deficiency. Rather, because many multivitamins contain too little or too much of the nutrients, plus plant extracts and other totally unnecessary ingredients.

    Rather than blasting all multivitamins, people should take a careful look at what they are consuming.

    Continue reading

  • Bone Health Q & A: Vitamin K2 Supplements

    “I’m thinking about re-starting vitamin K2 supplements, and wondered which form you recommend (MK4 or 7 or both)? I have trouble with the MK7 causing heart palpitations, so I was only able to take a low dose every couple of days (used the LEF K complex) and that was a bit too strong. The other problem was the cost of it and it’s short half-life. I know that many studies show the importance of K2 but I was never able to determine if both should be taken and how to avoid the heart problems I have.”

    - Pam F. via email

    First, let’s quickly recap why vitamin K, and specifically vitamin K2, is recognized as an essential bone health supplement nutrient today:For bone health, more than 109 mg a day of Vitamin K is associated with improved bone density and lower risks of fracture - even in people with already low bone density.

    Continue reading

  • Supplements Are Not “Magic”

    A response to author and doctor Paul Offitt’s new book, Do You Believe in Magic? The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine

    Dr. Paul Offitt is Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and the Director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. He is also the author of several popular books. In his new book, Do You Believe in Magic? The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine, he is not shy about his feelings on alternative medicine. But, Dr. Offitt’s opinion actually represents the mainstream opinion of physicians – they want proof of effectiveness before considering any form of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM). Until recently, I counted myself among those physicians.  But years of research and personalized patient care have broadened my thinking. I now try to balance both the worlds of pure scientific proof and observational science based on the latest advances in my field - bone health.

    Photo Credit: HarperCollins, 2013

    The good news is that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are finally funding some unbiased studies on complementary and alternative medicine. Also, major medical centers like Harvard, Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic and others have recently established Centers for integrative medicine for treatment and research. The bad news is that uninformed physicians might use Dr. Offitt’s heavy-handed argument to ignore proven advances in alternative medicine. This has caused me to think, “Why are mainstream physicians repulsed by alternative healthcare and integrative medicine?”

    The reasons for physician bias against alternative and integrative medicine are not clear. As a professor and participant in the design of the curriculum for our local medical school, it became apparent that we cannot teach doctors everything in four years. The primary role of the physician is to diagnose and treat diseases, and that is the priority in medical education. This is a huge responsibility and American doctors are the best in the world when you are sick and need help. The rise of the pharmaceutical industry has also improved our lives in countless ways and continues to do so with advanced scientific methods that would be impossible without an open business environment. Although the politics of healthcare in America need serious attention, no matter what side you are on, people who do receive medical care in the U.S. have the best in the world.

    So, whose responsibility is it to prevent disease? As Americans we leave that up to individuals through healthy lifestyle, injury prevention, regular exercise, and regular health checkups. One reason doctors are skeptical of alternative medicine is that they have received very little education in this area and there are limited financial resources for preventive and integrative medicine. The costs are high and the reimbursement is very low. Who earns income when people stop smoking, exercise regularly, and eat healthier foods? There is also a lack of structure when it comes to supervising these efforts, and that reduces their success rates.

    Not surprisingly, this leaves the public to discover alternative healthcare options for itself. Funding is limited for pharmaceutical firms or research centers, because there are no products that can be patented. For example, the discovery that broccoli helps prevent cancer does nothing for “the bottom line” because that discovery cannot be patented and sold as a medicine. All sorts of strange ideas pop up from the public, and they are difficult to prove or disprove because of inadequate funding. That uncertainty  influences scientifically trained physicians who are unlikely to recommend them without proof. It takes years for alternative and preventative approaches to sort themselves out and become accepted as medical advances. That may compromise patient care in the process but it also protects patients from scams and dangerous trends that arise in popular culture.

    Dr. Offitt identifies many very bad connections that have been made between cause and effect, like efforts to associate vaccines with autism, or silicone implants with immune disorders. Those have been proven wrong, and many other aspects of alternative medicine are nonsense. Human observation is inherently faulty which is why doctors prefer proof. If you believe humans are not easily fooled, think how long people claimed the World was flat. The Earth certainly looks flat until you see it from outer space. Our ability to make correct observations requires scientific rigor, but that scientific rigor must begin with an idea that seems impossible at the time.

    Specifically, let’s address some known facts about the nature of nutritional supplements, a category of alternative medicine:

    •    Healthy foods are the best way to take in nutrients
    •    Scientific research has identified optimum values for many vitamins and minerals
    •    Scientific research has identified the typical food habits of  Americans
    •    More than half of Americans do not eat enough healthy foods to meet the optimum intake of vitamins and minerals
    •    It is difficult to get some of the most important vitamins and minerals from foods alone
    •    Certain dietary supplements have been proven to have health benefits

    For these reasons alone, one should not condemn all supplements, or condemn all alternative healthcare. Some supplements are potentially harmful, as Dr. Offitt has identified. In bone health, it is well established to avoid herbal remedies and potentially harmful ingredients like plant extracts as well as minerals including strontium and lead, that are in some “natural” forms of calcium currently on market.  These ingredients are not essential for bone health like food-based vitamins and minerals. However, they are commonly sold as “natural” because they seep into foods and water that are commonly and perhaps unknowingly consumed. Lead is natural, but it should not be consumed. The Institute for Better Bone Health is committed to providing healthy supplements that rely on proven nutrients that have a great safety margin.

    My hope is that Dr. Offitt’s book will be read with an open mind toward increasing scientific research into alternative medicine to prove or disprove common assumptions, faster, so that the public can make safe healthcare decisions.

    As the Council for Responsible Nutrition points out, the term “Alternative Medicine” might be outdated and part of the misunderstanding. To read their official response to this topic, visit http://www.crnusa.org/CRNPR13-ResponseNewBookAltMed061813.html

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