CoQ10: Do You Need This Supplement?

coenzyme Q10

I’ve never been a big pill pusher in my practice. I believe the best source of nutrients is food, and supplements are meant to supplement our food intake. Decades ago I attended a continuing education seminar on supplements. I was struck by the presenter’s comments on CoQ10 (CoenzymeQ10). She cited lots of studies on how various clinical populations with various medical problems had low blood CoQ10 levels. Then, she said we all need to be taking it because we make less as we age. Seemed to make a lot of sense if you look at it that way since we are not getting any younger!

What is CoQ10?

Coenzyme Q10 is also known as ubiquinone. It’s a naturally occurring anti-oxidant whose primary function is cellular energy production. Our bodies do produce it, but as noted above we make less as we age. Our diets can only provide small amounts of this nutrient. Food sources are primarily chicken, beef, and some whole grains.

Who might benefit from CoQ10?

There are a variety of medical issues that might benefit from CoQ10. While some conditions that have thought to benefit from CoQ10 supplementation are disputed of late,  the following conditions are currently thought to improve with a supplement. As is always the case, it is necessary to discuss with your health care team when deciding to add supplements to your diet in therapeutic ranges. Supplements can always interact with certain medications, so your health care team and you need to be communicating on this topic!

Those with the following medical concerns might benefit:

  • Heart disease. Studies have shown that taking 100 mg of CoQ10 on a daily basis improved how the heart pumps blood. Other studies have shown that those who took a daily total dose of 300 mg of CoQ10 in addition to their prescribed cardiac medication reduced cardiac events by 50%. Multiple studies have also indicated that this supplement improved muscle symptoms associated with cholesterol lowering statin medications.
  • Migraines. Studies have supported the use of CoQ10 for headache pain. 300 mg taken for three months showed a decrease in migraine frequency in a small study. There was also a reduction in blood levels of lactate and nitric oxide, both of which are elevated in migraine sufferers.
  • Fibromyalgia. One small study found that 100 mg of CoQ10 taken three times per day for 40 days significantly improved clinical symptoms, including tender points and sleep quality.
  • Wrinkles. We are all going to get them, so it is interesting to note that one preliminary study found that middle-aged women taking 150 mg of CoQ10 three times per day for 3 months achieved a significant reduction in wrinkles around the lips, eyes, and nose. There was no reduction in wrinkles on the forehead.

Taking smaller 100 mg doses with a small amount of dietary fat will increase the absorption of CoQ10.

For information on another popular supplement, visit my blog on magnesium.

Do you take this supplement? Do you have any questions or comments about this supplement not covered in this blog?

 

 

 

 

How to Buy Vitamin Supplements: Be a Savvy Consumer

We are a pill popping society, and we know it. It is what Americans seem to love to do. But, do you really know how to buy vitamin supplements? It’s best to be a savvy shopper, as there’s no sense in making poor supplement choices that may hurt you and your wallet. There is such a thing as too much of certain nutrients. Understanding some key points on how to buy supplements will make you a savvy and healthier consumer.

supplement fact label

Supplement Fact Label

Who might benefit from supplement use?

People that would benefit from supplements include: those with nutrient deficiencies, women of childbearing years, or the elderly on certain medications. People with low calorie intakes and those that skip entire food groups might also benefit. While it is always best to have your nutritional requirements met through a healthy food selection, appropriate dosages of supplements can “supplement” your diet by filling in the gaps.

The bad news on supplements

The bad news about supplements is that overdoing dosages can be harmful to your health. Many people have the “if some is good, more is better” mentality. The truth is that scientists have documented upper limits of safety, and beyond those limits you are putting your health at risk. Mega doses of supplements are actually categorized as drugs, and excessive amounts of supplements can cause symptoms ranging from nerve damage to liver failure.

Another little known fact is that just because you can purchase a supplement at a store, doesn’t mean it is safe. Supplements sold in this country have virtually no regulation in terms of safety. Under current law, the FDA is responsible for taking action on unsafe supplements already on the market. But, it does not need to screen or pre-approve a supplement before it gets to the store shelves. This means you need to be a savvy supplement shopper if you decide to take supplements.

Here are 5 tips to help you buy vitamin supplements:

  1. Look at the Supplement Fact label (example in above photo); choose a multi-nutrient supplement that does not have very high percentages of nutrients (around 100% Daily Value (DV) would be safe). If many nutrients are 200% or higher, consider selecting a different supplement.
  2. Look for the USP symbol or text on a label.usp logo on a supplement lable
    The USP symbol or text means that the supplement will dissolve in your digestive system, and the ingredients are guaranteed.
  3. Supplements with added ingredients such as parsley, alfalfa, and herbs offer no added health benefit to the consumer. There would be too little added to the supplement-best to just eat the parsley!
  4. Don’t let terms such as “stress relief”, “time release”, or “natural” drive your brand selection. These are only marketing terms!
  5. Because there is no regulation on supplements prior to arriving on the store shelves, consider purchasing supplements that are name brands. These companies are more likely to have their own internal high quality control standards, as they have a reputation to be protected, which can also ultimately protect the consumer.

If in doubt about whether to supplement or not, a registered/licensed dietitian can assist you! And remember, you are still getting nutrients from foods that are fortified, like cereals.

For additional safety guidelines on supplement use, click here.

What are your thoughts about supplement use and safety?

 

 

Fish Oil for Dogs: Good For Furry Friends Too!

Fish oil for dogs

As a practicing dietitian/nutritionist, I recommend fish oil to my patients all the time. While my credentials and experience let me call myself an “expert” in human nutrition, I would never make the same claim for animal nutrition. Animals are not humans, and while some aspects of human nutrition can and do cross-over to recommendations for our pets, I do not pretend to have the expertise in animal nutrition to know which principles of human nutrition would apply equally to our beloved furry friends. With that stated, a recent visit to the vet brought up the topic of fish oil for dogs.

Fish oil is a rich source of omega-3-fatty acids and for humans benefits include:

  • Lowering blood triglycerides, decreasing cardiovascular disease risk
  • Fighting inflammation, a cause of pain and disease
  • Controlling certain skin disorders such as psoriasis and eczema, and just plain old dry skin

My Furry Friend

I have a very dear Golden Retriever that was rescued from a shelter at the age of one.  She is now a senior canine. A recent trip to the vet along with a xray of her back showed osteoarthritis and disc degeneration. The standard Rimadyl was started (an analgesic and anti-inflammatory) along with Dasuquin for joint support. As my options for therapy seemed limited, a vet tech at the office made a comment to me about fish oil. He said human fish oil supplements were good for dogs, and the dosage would be the same as for humans.

Sounding like a benign and economical option, I did some research. Digging a bit into the literature, it seems fish oil supplementation for dogs is a very common practice. As a practicing dietitian, I frequently run into incorrect supplement dosage recommendations made for people, and often those dosage recommendations are made by physicians.  For supplements to be therapeutic for humans, dosing does matter. Too much of a supplement may foster a toxic situation or promote interference of other important nutrients essential to health. Too little, and there may be no clinical impact. So a bit of research gave me insight into the dosing for dogs. To figure out how much fish oil to give your dog, take your dog’s weight in pounds and multiply by 20. So, if your dog weighs 75 pounds, the dosage of fish oil would be 1500 mg.

No special doggie fish oil is necessary.

Human fish oil supplements are fine. But, many pills are on the larger side, so you may pierce the pill and put on food. Or, if your dog is like my dog, she will eat anything in a piece of bread. Nature Made brand Fish Oil “pearls” are on the smaller side and 500 mg per pill. This smaller size and dosage pill makes dosing and administration of fish oil easy!

My hope is that fish oil will cut Mollie’s dander and ease her joint pain while also decreasing her prescription medication. Check with your vet before self-prescribing fish oil as other health issues may impact the decision as to if it’s appropriate.

Should You Take Supplements: Facts to Consider

Nutritional supplements

News coverage over the last few days seems to be revolving around the weather, the holidays, and of all things nutritional supplements!  While I can’t comment about most of the current media topics, I do have a few words to say on the topic of supplements! If you listen to the media hype over the last few days, there are some recurring statements from the so-called experts. This begs the question of whether we should be taking supplements.

Expert comments

Some “experts” note our nutrients should come only from food. Others suggest  “natural” whole foods be put into pill form. The truth and correct answers are most likely somewhere in between the black and white statements made by these so-called experts. Unfortunately, not one “expert” ever suggested that each person should be evaluated on a case by case basis. To determine if supplements are right for you, consider these tips:

Supplements fill in dietary gaps

If you eat a healthy diet, there is a fairly good chance you can skip taking pills! If you are lactose intolerant, don’t eat any foods containing omega-3 fatty acids, or are vegan, then you may need a supplement. Consulting a licensed/registered dietitian can help you sort out what you may need to be doing with supplements.

Supplements are of benefit to your health if you have a documented deficiency 

Wondering if you should really be taking vitamin D supplements? You should have a blood test to determine if you need to be taking a supplement. Once blood work is done on my clients, most have turned out to be deficient. Correction of a deficiency is usually easy to do with diet or supplements. For a vitamin D deficiency, sunshine may be the prescription!

Be aware of upper limits of safety 

Many people taking multiple supplements forget they may be doubling or tripling their intake of a nutrient because they are taking multiple pills. Beyond a certain limit, it can be dangerous to ingest too much of a single nutrient. Some nutrients can even be toxic if taken in excess. Your favorite dietitian can be your best resource for this information!

Food is your best source of nutrients 

Mother nature packages foods perfectly with the best combination of nutrients. The mixture of nutrients designed by mother nature work effectively together. With that stated, those people who eat a lot of processed foods and a limited diet may indeed benefit from specific supplements. An evaluation of your diet and eating habits is the best way to move forward with accurate supplement recommendations.

Regulation of supplements

If a supplement is reported as unsafe, the stores are required to pull the product. Until then, it’s buyer beware as the supplement industry is strictly self-regulating. With that stated, the savvy consumer choosing to take supplements should consider well-known brands. Well known brands want to protect their reputation. They  will have high quality control standards. Using lesser known brands may result in lower quality control. Even arsenic and lead have tainted some supplements in the past few decades.

Not all supplements are good or bad. Not all people need them. Consulting a professional to evaluate your diet prior to making recommendations both improves your health and saves you money.

B12 for Weight Loss: Is this Bunk/Junk Science?

B12 shots for weight lossLast evening the topic in my college nutrition class was vitamins. As we came to the topic of vitamin B12, several students inquired about B12 for weight loss. One student said her former pediatrician suggested she take B12 to help with weight loss. Several students in other course sections asked repeated questions about B12 shots for weight loss.

I must admit I was stumped as to why they would even ask about this. THEN, the spa Groupon email came this morning advertising B12 shots. The Groupon ad suggests B12 injections as an additional therapy for boosting energy and the body’s metabolism for those looking to lose weight.  The price: a mere $69.00 for 12 vitamin B12 injections. This a major savings from the original hefty retail value of $480.00! This all begs the question as to if there is any benefit to B12 injections for weight loss.

B12 injection benefits?

We do like to take pills and look for magical methods to lose weight easily. Unfortunately, I would have to say this is just another one of those gimmicks. I can find no sound scientific basis for suggesting additional B12 from supplements or injections to aid in weight loss. If someone is tired from anemia due to a B12 deficiency (called pernicious anemia), then administration of B12 will indeed give that person more energy because the person needs the B12 to treat that specific type of anemia. But, for the rest of us, that B12 will neither give us more energy or boost our metabolism.

There are ways to boost one’s metabolism, but chowing down on more B vitamins or injecting them is not a way to raise our metabolic rate. We get energy from the calories in our foods and resting our bodies. B vitamins do not give us energy, they are needed in small amounts to help the biochemical reactions that occur in our bodies to release energy from foods-that gives us energy!

B12 and meat consumption

Most people who eat animal protein are getting more than sufficient amounts of B12.  B12 is derived from animal protein, and since many Americans eat more protein than recommended, B12 is not usually an issue. For vegans, it may be necessary to take a B12 supplement to meet requirements. However, many foods are fortified with B12 (such as cereals which may have 100% of B12 requirements provided in a single serving) so not all vegans would necessarily need to be taking a supplemental form of B12.

Have you tried B12 shots for weight loss? Did you see any benefit? Right now over 200 Groupon deals have been sold!

Is this a waste of money or helpful for your waistline?

 

 

 

 

Is Your Dietary Supplement Downright Dangerous? 5 Tips to Protect Yourself!

Many Americans naively pop vitamin and mineral supplements and guzzle various types of protein powders, thinking they are helping with overall health. The reality is that many of these supplements can be downright dangerous! In fact, according to recent newspaper headliner, the 28 billion dollar supplement industry has serious and widespread manufacturing flaws. These flaws are extensive enough have the potential to harm our health. From quality control to formulation issues, the product you are taking may not be what you are thinking it is. There may be much more or too little of a specific nutrient. Even lead, arsenic, and rodent feces have been known to contaminate our supplements.

As a potential consumer, it needs to be understood that the supplement industry is a self-regulating industry. That means the government does not directly oversee the quality control of a supplement. Companies are largely left in charge of their own standards. Under current laws, the FDA does not screen supplements for safety before they hit the consumer market. The FDA only takes action regarding supplements on the market once there is a documented issue with the supplement. The FDA relies on manufacturers themselves, as well as consumers, to report any adverse effects.

Proactive steps to take when purchasing supplements

Buy name brand supplements

Well-known brands may have better “in-house” quality control standards because the reputation of the company is at stake. Steer clear of companies you have not heard of.

Look for the USP label

This label means that the supplement has been at least evaluated for ingredients stated on the label. It also means the product will dissolve in your digestive tract rather than passing straight through your body. The symbol does not guarantee any other health or safety advantages of the supplement.

Look at the Nutrition Fact Label on the supplement

Note the percent daily value of the nutrients. If you see values of many nutrients far exceeding 100%, don’t be duped into thinking this is a good thing. Consumers need to understand that too much of a nutrient can be very harmful. We have upper limits of safety for many nutrients, and we should avoid exceeding those upper limits of safety.

Consider using the Internet to investigate your supplement before taking it

Consumer Labs is an independent testing lab that evaluates supplemental products and makes the test results available for a small subscription fee. The analyses and data are extensive and informative.

 Consider having a dietitian evaluate your current diet.

A dietitian can evaluate nutrient shortcomings and make appropriate recommendations to meet those dietary deficits with the correct dosages of nutrients. Or better yet, a dietitian can help you find the foods you like to eat to give you the nutrients you need!  After all, mother nature does the best nutrient packaging of all.

Do you ever think about safety issues regarding supplement use?

Hey Seniors, Reach for These 5 Dietary Supplements

Link

Supplements for seniorsWhile daily use of multi-nutrient supplements has fallen out of favor by some health professionals due to some recent studies, there are five supplements many seniors should take. While food is always the best source of nutrients, certain circumstances with aging may warrant adding these supplements to your diet! Here are the 5 recommended supplements for seniors :

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

We have too little of these essential fatty acids in our diet. While fish can be a good contributor of omega-3-fatty acids, eating fish a few times a week is not necessarily going to be insurance requirements are met. Other food sources include walnuts and flaxseed, but consistency is key. If these foods are not eaten regularly, a fish oil supplement a few times per week may be helpful.

CoQ10

We make this nutrient, but we make less of it as we age. If you are taking a statin drug to lower your cholesterol level, the statin drug will limit your body’s ability to make this nutrient. Consider taking CoQ10 if you are aging or on a cholesterol lowering statin!

Magnesium

While distributed in a wide variety of foods, my clients are often consuming too little of this nutrient. Magnesium may be easily washed and peeled away from foods during processing. A decreased calorie consumption also means less is being consumed through food.

Vitamin D

It is best to get your baseline blood vitamin D levels checked, but chances are you will benefit from at least some additional supplemental vitamin D. While we can make this vitamin, we make less as we age. Increased use of sunscreen will further decrease production of vitamin D. With mounting evidence that vitamin D plays roles in promoting strong bones, healthy blood pressure, fighting infection, and decreasing inflammation and cancer risk, supplementation is frequently warranted.  For more information on why it is hard to actually get enough vitamin D from foods, read on.

Calcium

If you skip the dairy group, there is a good chance you may not be meeting your calcium requirements. Calcium is important for more than our bones-it also protects against colon cancer and high blood pressure. If you opt out of drinking regular milk and eating dairy products, choose soy, rice, or almond milk. Just make sure the brand you choose is fortified with calcium. If you avoid these products altogether, consider a supplement. Consume 1000 mg up to 50 years of age; for 50+ the requirements increase to 1200 mg.

While my preference is always going to be to get nutrients through food, eating less as we age, medication, and lifestyle may impact our nutritional status.

Any one have other supplements they think we should be taking as we get older?