I meet two friends at the neighborhood fitness center once a week. Last week one of them asked me if I still took calcium supplements after the new report linking calcium supplements with heart attacks. I hadn’t read about the study. Lin came to my rescue and posted a news article about on the Forum. Calcium News
First a disclaimer: I am not a medical professional or nutritionist. I haven’t read the original study reports. However, I have been an avid reader about preventive health care for more than 35 years. What follows is my opinion, plus a few quotes from books that I have found trustworthy.
The thing that jumped out at me in the news article is that it did not mention whether the study distinguished between calcium-only supplements and supplements containing calcium, magnesium, and Vitamin D.
Most grocery store calcium is compressed calcium tablets without magnesium. In my opinion those tablets are worthless. Whether they cause heart attacks, I have no idea, but if the study was based on people taking calcium supplements that they buy at the grocery store, the results are skewed from the start.
Compressed tablets are not easily absorbed under the best of circumstances and in older women who are likely to have reduced digestive function, very little of the calcium is absorbed. This advice is under Calcium – Warnings in Prescription for Nutritional Healing. “Test your brand of calcium to assure absorption. Place the calcium pill in a glass of warm water and shake. If the calcium does not dissolve within 24 hours, change to another brand or form.” If you are going to take calcium supplements, do not waste your money on tablets. Get capsules chewables or liquid-gels.
Calcium and Magnesium must be taken together in order for either one of them to be useful. The rule of thumb is 2:1 calcium:magnesium. Some supplement manufacturers vary that ratio a little. Forty years ago Adelle Davis was writing that calcium taken without magnesium would actually cause calcium to be withdrawn from bones. Almost every book on my shelf talks about the importance of magnesium to prevention of heart disease. Here is just one quote from Dr. D in Live Right. “Many people with high cholesterol and triglycerides are magnesium deficient, so you may need a supplement.” If Calcium and Magnesium work together and must be simultaneously in the blood stream, why would anyone expect a Calcium-only supplement to be helpful, and why would anyone be surprised when research shows that it may be harmful?
Calcium and Magnesium need Vitamin D to be absorbed. If you do not get enough sunshine, and/or supplement with Vitamin D, the Calcium supplements you take may not wind up in your bones where you want them. They may wind up in your kidneys as stones or in your arteries as atherosclerosis.
Another factor is fluoride, which binds with calcium and prevents it from getting into bones. As a post menopausal woman, I resent the fact that my tap water is intentionally contaminated with a chemical that will hurt my bones.
The Type O diet doesn’t make getting calcium from food very easy. Most dairy is avoid. The few cheeses that are neutral, I use as garnishes rather than as main courses. Spinach, kale and almonds would be good sources of dietary calcium, if they didn’t contain so much oxalic acid which interferes with absorption and is linked to kidney stones and joint pain.
So I will continue to take calcium supplements in spite of the study. But no grocery store calcium for me. Capsules, chewables, or liquid-gels where calcium is combined with magnesium and Vitamin D.
I am in a book club in my neighborhood. While most book clubs choose a book for everyone to read, we are different. We bring books that we have read and talk about what we liked and didn’t like. Then we lend our books to each other. The only rule is that the books have to have a positive message. The reason most of us joined this club is because we were weary of buying a best seller and finding it full of violence and bad language. I have lent out several of my BTD books to people who were interested.
Several of the ladies like murder mysteries, and a series of murder mysteries by Susan Wittig Albert is particularly popular. We all live in the Texas Hill Country, and the setting for these mysteries is an imaginary Hill Country town. We all like to cook, and the theme of the books is herbs. The heroine owns a herb shop and catering company. In addition to clues there are recipes and fun facts about herbs.
My two favorite genres are classics and historical fiction, but once in a while I get in the mood for a good mystery. Last month I borrowed one of Susan Wittig Albert’s books called Nightshade.
When I picked it up, I was thinking of the lovely purple flowers that grow in my yard. I wasn’t thinking of all of the foods in the nightshade family: potatoes, tomatoes, chili peppers, eggplant, tomatillos, and bell peppers.
As I read the history of nightshades, I learned that many cultures have considered them all to be poisonous. Some modern nutritionists associate them with diseases like arthritis.
After the mystery was solved, I thought I would see what Dr. D. had to say about nightshades. Every type except Type A has nightshades that beneficial, neutral, and avoid. I couldn’t find any beneficial nightshades for Type A.
Potatoes are avoid for all types. For me (Type O) Eggplant is neutral, but I don’t really like it. Tomatoes are neutral. I eat them if I find them in a salad, but I don’t buy them. Green bell peppers and tomatillos are neutral. They are ok if they are cooked, but don’t like either of them raw. Red Bell Peppers and chili peppers are beneficial. I like both of them cooked and used as a seasoning, but I don’t like them raw.
The bad elements in Nightshades are compounds called alkaloids. Cooking reduces the alkaloid content by half. Perhaps that is why I instinctively prefer cooked peppers to raw peppers.
The pretty flowers that grow in my yard are called Deadly Nightshade. I’ve noticed that in dry weather the deer will eat almost anything green, but they do not touch the nightshade.
Interesting mystery and interesting food facts.
I have a dilemma about peanuts. How should we as a society balance the needs of peanut allergy sufferers with the needs of Type As for whom peanuts are a beneficial and inexpensive food?
When DD was a little girl, she did not like much meat, and she did not like cheese. (It amazes me how self aware she was of her nutritional needs as a Type A) Because of that, I packed a peanut butter sandwich in her lunch almost every day. I thought she would eventually get tired of it. I certainly desire more variety than that. But DD never did. She is now 22 years old and she still eats a peanut butter sandwich for one meal almost every day.
I have a vivid memory of her coming home from school one day with a paper from health class saying that peanut butter was an unhealthy food. This was shortly after I had started the Blood Type Diet, and it made me furious. We had a talk about protein, and about good fats and bad fats. She was convinced that peanut butter was beneficial for her, but she wanted a good grade in the class. We agreed that if there was a question about peanut butter on a test that she could answer what the teacher had taught, but continue to eat her peanut butter sandwich.
One of my nephews was allergic to peanuts. Eating anything with peanuts or peanut oil could send him into an asthma attack. His mother was very careful with what he ate. And after one time when he ate a peanut butter cookie at the insistence of an uninformed adult, he was very careful about what he ate as well. Eventually he grew out of the allergy. Today he is in his 30s. He has three children and none of them are allergic to peanuts.
However I have a friend whose elementary school son has a peanut allergy that is so violent that the smell of peanuts can send him to the emergency room. He has had attacks on airplanes and in the school cafeteria. His mother is on a campaign to get peanuts outlawed in the school, or to make students with peanut butter sandwiches eat their lunch in a separate room away from the other children.
I don’t see a fair way out of this situation. Her son’s life is at risk. I can’t ignore that. I would support a system where peanut allergy sufferers could declare themselves when they bought their ticket and flight attendants would not serve peanuts on those flights. What to do about school is more complicated. It would certainly be socially damaging for my friend’s son to have to eat his lunch alone in a separate room every day.
Yet it seems equally unfair for a Type A child to be stigmatized and sent to eat their peanut butter sandwich alone. While DD might have had the self confidence to stand up to that kind of pressure. I can easily imagine peer dependent Type A children who would eat more meat and cheese just so they didn’t call attention to themselves. That meat and cheese would be detrimental to their health - just not as rapidly as or as obviously as an allergic reaction.
If any of you have heard of a school that has come up with a wise policy about this issue, I would be interested to hear it.
I can’t remember the last time I ran fever. I’ve had a couple of colds since we moved to the Hill Country, but I don’t remember running a fever. The last time I remember running fever was in 2007. Overall, I’d say I’ve been exceptionally healthy on the BTD.
However, I did pick up a stomach bug last week and I ran fever for 24 hours. In between naps, I did a little self analysis. Why – I asked myself – did I get sick?
The first answer was obvious. I’ve been keeping a really fast pace, and have not been getting eight, or even seven hours of sleep. I know at 10:30 that I need to get off the computer and start winding down, but what I’m doing always seems so important to me at the moment. The fever forced me to slow down. It reminds me of the Bible passage in 2 Chronicles 36, where God says that Israel’s Babylonian captivity will last for 70 years to make up for their refusing to let the land rest every seven years as He had told them to do in the law.
God tells us to rest. Every credible diet and lifestyle program, including the BTD, emphasizes the need for rest. My common sense tells me to rest. If I ignore all warnings, something – like a stomach bug - will force me to rest. I’m caught up now. Even after I was over the virus, I slowed my pace over the weekend. I’m starting this week with a new commitment to get optimum rest.
While I was doing self analysis, I was confronted with something else. I’ve developed a pain that runs up and down my right arm. I recognize it from when I was on the computer all the time getting ready for a yearbook deadline. I’m spending too much time sitting at the desk holding the mouse. The easiest thing to do is to move the mouse to the left side of the computer. I get relief from the pain, but it doesn’t solve the underlying problem.
The hard thing to do is to stop trying to make every picture I take “perfect.” You see, I’ve developed techniques to open people’s eyes, improve lighting, take out background distractions, even move people around in pictures. When my clients pay me to do this, it is good. When I do this for the fun pictures I’m going to email to friends, it becomes compulsive. Being less compulsive about candid shots will mean less time at the computer, less pain, and more rest.
It seems so obvious, so easy. But I know that old habits are hard to break. Let’s see if I can start by posting this blog, then walking away from the computer and fixing a healthy dinner.
If you think this blog is about rationed health care, you are wrong. We already have rationed health care. If you need a heart, kidney or liver transplant, you go on a national waiting list. When an organ becomes available, there is a group that evaluates the people on the list and determines who gets the transplant.
Insurance companies do their own version of health care rationing. I spoke to a friend yesterday who has rheumatoid arthritis. She periodically needs a treatment that costs several thousand dollars. Each time her doctor must submit an application to the insurance company who decides whether she gets the treatment or not. The same application process requires to many medical tests, including PET scans that look for cancer metastasis.
As health care becomes more nationalized, such boards will become more centralized and more powerful. You may not like the term death panels (Obamacare calls them Independent Payment Advisory Board) but this is how a proponent of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act describes them:
The term refers to any of the multitude of expert commissions whose charge will be to dispassionately examine the scientific evidence in order to determine which patients will get what, when and how. These bodies, in fact, will be explicitly aiming to optimize the medical outcomes of the entire population titrated to the amount of money we’re allowed to spend on healthcare.
Sounds to me like somebody besides me and my doctor will be deciding whether I get treatment. But none of that is what this blog is about.
This blog is about the new USDA MyPlate for Better Nutrition.
I ordered supplements a few days ago from the Vitamin Shoppe, and when my order arrived, it included a flyer that tells me, “The US Government did away with the archaic and impractical food pyramid and implemented a more useful MyPlate icon to guide Americans toward consuming a balanced diet.”
The problem with this new guide is that if a Type O followed it, they would face weight gain, higher cholesterol, stomach inflammation, and joint issues.
I went on the USDA MyPlate Website put my age, height, weight, and physical activity level into the daily food plan guide. It tells me that every day I need to eat:
6 ounces of grain
2.5 cups of vegetables
2 cups of fruit
3 cups of dairy
5.5 ounces of protein
More grain than protein?!?
More dairy than vegetables?!?
What are they thinking?!?
I am not a conspiracy theorist – not by a long shot.
The title of this blog was more to get you to read it and think than to make a statement about the motives of government agencies.
However, this new plan makes me all the more thankful for the Blood Type Diet and for Dr. D who developed it. Perhaps if I ignore the USDA plan and eat Right for My Type, I will dodge the more insidious rationing panels as I get older.