This is all well if large amount of micro-nutrients promotes better health. But does it?
My question is: is there any benefits from eating a diet that largely exceeds the daily micro-nutrients normally recommended ? Wouldn't be a reasonable idea to simply exceed the recommended quantity by just a little? And not overwhelmed our system? I understand our food must be somewhat nutrient dense and not filled with empty calories (sugar, oil, white flour, etc.) but is getting most of my calories from Kale and Bok Choi really a better choice than from Quinoa or oats for example?t
Excellent point which I have discussed a few times in general but let me add in some additional comments on some of these misconceptions.
1) To begin with, starches are not low nutrient density. While they may not be as high as vegetables and green leafy vegetables, starches are a high nutrient dense food.
We can all do the comparison ourselves by using the CRON-O-Meter. This allows us to do both a nutrient by nutrient comparison and an overall nutrient comparisons based on the Standard of Reference used in studies which is the USDA SR 21.
However, in regard to second hand info and in the name of simplicity... You can also go to http://www.nutritiondata.com
and use their online tools. They use a proprietary system to rate foods on Nutrient Density, Nutrient Balance, Protein Quality. Again, I am not a fan of proprietary systems, let's just see what is says..
Nutrient Density (Score 1-5)
Sweet Potato 4.5
Sweet Potato (starch) and Oatmeal (grain) are higher rated than Almonds and Walnuts.
Nutrient Balance (0-100)
Sweet Potato 65
Sweet Potato (starch) and Oatmeal (grain) are higher rated than Almonds and Walnuts.
Protein Quality/Amino Acid Score (higher is better)
Sweet Potato 82
Sweet Potato (starch) and Oatmeal (grain) are higher rated than Almonds and Walnuts.
The CRON-O- Meter, which I do recommend and which does not use any proprietary methods, will confirm all of these numbers.
In fact, Dr Fuhrman has his own proprietary system, which actually also confirms these numbers. From the actual ETL charthttp://www.drfuhrman.com/library/article17.aspx
Dr. Fuhrman's Nutrient Density Scores
Sweet Potatoes 83
Sunflower Seeds 45
Brown Rice 41
White Potatoes 31
Sweet Potato (starch) and Oatmeal (grain) are higher rated than Sunflower Seeds, Almonds and Walnuts.
There are several threads in this forum where I have analyzed simple versions of this starch based diet (Going Nuts, Wendy's Mini, SNAP, etc) that show it is extremely high in nutrient density. I know of no evidence showing more than this, is ANY better.
2) we know that diet that are low in nutrients, can raise your risk for certain diseases. However, this is not what is causing most disease and death in this country. In fact, when we look at the long lived Okinawans, we see that their dietary intake was actually low in certain nutrients and they even showed symptoms of these deficiencies, yet in spite of them, they were centenarians.
Caloric Restriction, the Traditional Okinawan Diet, and Healthy Aging,
The Diet of the World’s Longest-Lived People and Its Potential Impact on Morbidity and Life Span Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci. 1114: 434–455 (2007).
The data from 1949, which was reflective of those who would become centenarians. What i found most interesting is in spite of their nutrient dense diet, they were short on several nutrients.
Nutrient, Amount, % RDA
Vitamin D (mcg) 0.4 2%
Vitamin B2(mg) 0.5 45%
Niacin (mg) 13.2 93%
Vitamin B12: 0.6 27%
Calcium (mg) 505.3 82%
Zinc (mg) 6.2 62%
And while several reported experiencing some signs/symptoms reflective of these deficiencies, including 14% reported experiencing symptoms of Cheilosis, which is reflective of the B deficiencies, this didn't effect the overall benefit of their overall diet and lifestyle to their longevity.
So, where is the evidence that being a little low in a few nutrients is harmful or dangerous?
3) we have absolutely no evidence that once you have surpassed the general recommendations, that more is better and in fact, as consistently discussed here in the Where's The Harm thread and as Dr John discusses in his writins, more is not always better. This just recently came out and I am posting the general article for now as I have the abstract elsewhere.
No Matter How You Say It, Acai Comes With Some Pronounced Doubts
By Jennifer Huget
Tuesday, March 31, 2009; HE03
How bad can the economy be if people are buying acai?
Surely you've heard of acai, even if you're not sure how to pronounce the name. (It's ah-sigh-EE.) The little purple berries have been touted for more healthful qualities than you'd think a simple berry could bear. Who'd have believed that this modest product of Brazil's Amazon rain forest could do everything from speed weight loss to correct sexual dysfunction -- while bolstering your immune system, too?
A lot of people.
According to Spins, a market research and consulting firm for the natural products industry, Americans spent more than $108 million on acai products in the 52 weeks ending Feb. 21, up from just over $62 million the year before.
That's a lot of berries. But are buyers getting their money's worth? That depends on what they expect.
Acai products have been spotlighted as super foods on Oprah Winfrey's and Rachael Ray's high-profile TV shows -- though not, Winfrey and Ray are quick to point out, endorsed by those celebrities, despite the fact that many ads for acai products bear their images. Mehmet Oz, in an "Oprah" appearance, listed acai berries at the top of his list of 10 most healthful foods before backing off and saying they belong on that list, but perhaps not on the top. Anybody with a Facebook or e-mail account has probably seen ads for this supposed miracle berry.
The fragile, highly perishable acai berries don't keep or travel well, so they're not available whole in these parts. But you can purchase powdered or frozen acai pulp to add to smoothies, bottled beverages featuring acai juice (usually combined with other fruit or berry juices) and dozens of dietary supplements purporting to contain key acai compounds. You can spend less than $10 on a bottle of 60 (supposedly) acai-containing supplement pills or about $40 on a 25-ounce bottle of MonaVie acai beverage. (Ray, who likely doesn't have to pinch pennies, seemed astounded at the cost of MonaVie when a guest presented it on her talk show.)
Introduced to the United States in 2000 by brothers Jeremy and Ryan Black after Ryan and a friend learned about the berries and their purported health benefits while visiting Brazil, acai has blown past the goji berry as the wonder fruit of the moment. (Goji berries, also touted for their health-promoting qualities, are still going fairly strong, with sales topping $9.5 million in the past year, up from $8.3 million the year before, according to Spins.) The Blacks' company, Sambazon, makes only modest claims for its products, simply noting that, in addition to being the rare fruit that offers heart-healthy omega fats, acai is rich in antioxidants.
To which many nutritionists will say, "So what?" Any dark-skinned fruit or bright-hued vegetable contains antioxidants -- compounds that keep potentially damaging "free radical" molecules from running rampant in the body, wreaking havoc on cells and DNA.
There's some dispute as to whether acai juice has more antioxidants than the juice of other fruits; the Washington-based food industry watchdog group Center for Science in the Public Interest notes that acai is only a middling source of antioxidants, providing more than, say, apple juice, but less than pomegranate or Concord grape juice. Sambazon's Jeremy Black disputes that, saying tests finding more antioxidants in pomegranate juice pitted pure pomegranate juice against acai juice blends containing juice from fruits less rich in antioxidants.The point may ultimately be moot. While we almost certainly need some antioxidants, licensed nutritionist Monica Reinagel (who's based in Baltimore and writes a blog at http://www.nutritiondata.com) points out that after a certain point, we don't need more.
Eating the government-recommended daily course of five servings of vegetables and two of fruit -- which only one in five of us actually does -- likely delivers all the antioxidants we need, Reinagel says, at least if we vary the fruits and vegetables we choose. After that, any further antioxidants may well be superfluous. "You reach a point of diminishing returns," she says.In any case, the mere presence of antioxidants in a food doesn't tell us much about that food's health benefits.
Vitamin E and beta carotene are both antioxidants whose presumed utility in preventing disease has been called into question by major studies. Because we haven't made a dent in identifying all the compounds contained in fruits and vegetables -- much less assessed the value of those we do know about -- we don't know whether there's anything special about acai compared to other berries, Reinagel observes.
Mark Kantor, an associate professor of nutrition and food science at the University of Maryland, says he's scanned the scientific literature and hasn't found reputable research to support any of the health claims acai's marketers are making.
"Unfortunately," Kantor says, "lots of Americans like to take the easy way out. They're looking for a miracle food. But they'll have to keep looking, because I don't think one exists."
Having said that, acai's not likely to do harm. Except to your credit card, that is.
The questionable health benefits attributed to acai are only half the story. As CSPI warned at a press conference last week, consumers using credit cards to enroll in "free" trials of acai products advertised via e-mail and on the Internet are being bilked big time.
After sharing credit-card information to cover shipping and handling, consumers are being hit by surprise monthly charges, often before they even receive their trial shipment. Those charges, ranging from $59 to $89, are extremely hard to contest with the companies, whom CSPI reports are difficult to reach by telephone and otherwise uncooperative.
Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal is working with CSPI to shed light on acai Internet scams. Sambazon, which sells its products in health food stores and on its own Web site, is not among the companies accused of dirty dealings and in fact helps scammed customers find their way to the Better Business Bureau.
If you're still keen on trying acai, better to buy products in person at your local health food store. Or you could skip the acai and stick with blueberries instead. They're packed with antioxidants, relatively inexpensive and available year-round; frozen's just as good as fresh.
And I've yet to hear of anyone's being bilked by a blueberry scam.
© 2009 The Washington Post Company
4) all of this is based on the anti-oxidant theory of disease which to this point, after decades of research, is not proving out very well. There is no evidence that a diet high in anti-oxidants will reduce your risk for disease and/or increase your longevity because OF the antioxidants. Maybe, in the end, they are just markers of otherwise healthy food.
I am copying a post from a colleague who has been involved in research for many years and I consider a brilliant mind and who has one of the best and most comprehensive knowledge of the literature.
"There is little or no evidence that ANTIOXIDANTS AS SUCH have health
benefits. There is evidence that many fruits and vegetables, all of
which contain antioxidants, have health benefits. In some cases, this is
related to their content of SPECIFIC antioxidant nutrients in specific
areas (eg, lutein in spinach against macular degeneratioin); in other
cases, the health benefit is largely or totally unrelated to antioxidant
components, as eg for cruciferous veggies, which contain 'antioxidants'
but whose benefit is due to the effect of their isothiocyanates' effect
on xenobiotic-metabolizing enzymes in the gut, their indoles' effects on
sex steroid metabolism, etc.
In many cases, these foods contain molecules which *are* antioxidants,
but which do not in fact act to quench free radicals in the body, as eg
because they are not appreciably absorbed; and there are even REALLY
surprising cases of the exact opposite phenomenon where a food is packed
with 'antioxidant' molecules, and consumption of that food actually does
exert an antioxidant effect in the body, but it turns out that that
antioxidant effect has NOTHING TO DO with the presence of the actual
antioxidant molecules, but to molecules which are NOT, themselves,
For example: there are whacks of antioxidant polyphenols in apple skins,
which might lead you to think that apples woiuld accordingly pack a big
antioxidant wallop. Nope. In (1), "when six healthy volunteers ate five
apples ... no significant increases in the resistance to oxidation of
endogenous urate, alpha-tocopherol, and lipids were found" in plasma.
Evidently, the super-high-ORAC polyphenols in their skins largely get
conjugated into unabsorbable metabolites by gut microflora and our own
Now compare (2), a study by the same researchers but assessing
antioxidant potential via FRAP (ferric reducing antioxidant potential --
a measure of antioxidant capacity) "without or with ascorbate oxidase
treatment (FRAPAO) to estimate the contribution of ascorbate." "Apple
consumption caused an acute, transient increase in both plasma FRAP and
FRAPAO". So eating apples DOES increase antioxidant capacity of one's
serum (using these particular, flawed, partial measures).
But wait -- it gets crazier. It turns out that this increase has nothing
at all to do with the polyphenols in the apples! Instead, the increase
in antioxidant capacity is due to their FRUCTOSE content: "This increase
... was paralleled by a large increase in plasma urate, a metabolic
antioxidant ... Consumption of fructose mimicked the effects of apples
with respect to increased FRAP, FRAPAO, and urate, but not ascorbate.
Taken together, our data show that the increase in plasma antioxidant
capacity in humans after apple consumption is due mainly to the
well-known metabolic effect of fructose on urate, not apple-derived
antioxidant flavonoids." While I have not found the mechanism, a quick
PubMEd does confirm that fructose does indeed elevate uric acid levels.
Yet fructose itself is not an antioxidant, & contributes ZERO value to
ORAC or any test-tube study of antioxidant capacity.
Again, what impact *any of this* ultimately has on actual health
outcomes is an ENTIRELY SEPARATE question. It just goes to show that
screaming headlines of "THE MOST POWERFUL ANTIOXIDANT FOOD!!" are
absolutely, hopelessly irrelevant.
There was a review on these kinds of issues, as regards flavonoids, a
little while back that was posted to the List in popular (3) and
scientific-abstract (4) form.
In no case can one say, a priori, that the presence of "antioxidants" in
a food tells us that there is a health benefit to people in general to
be gained from eating them. One can only run prospective studies of
people eating such foods, see if there's a benefit, and to whom, and
under what circumstances, and then see what compound(s) is/are
responsible for the effect -- and by what mechanism(s).
>>>>A chemistry would be sufficient to understand why, though whether
something is an antioxidant in the chemical sense (as in the
widely-hyped ORAC test) doesn't tell you much of anything about
whether it is an antioxidant in vivo -- let alone under what
conditions, against which SPECIFIC radicals, in what compartments,
>>"Doesn't tell you much of anything"? Are you suggesting tests like
the ORAC test tell you *nothing* about behaviour inside the body
Yes. See the apple example above. And again, even if it has an 'antioxidant' effect, that doesn't mean that there is necessarily a health benefit.
>>>My impression is that the ORAC test measures oxidative degradation in
the face of the peroxyl radical -
Indeed ... in a test tube, without coantioxidants, independent of the
body's endogenous antioxidant system, ignoring the vital role that some
endogenously-produced free radicals play in cellular signaling and other
important metabolic processes, etc etc ...
>>>Are there correlations between in-vitro and in-vivo behaviour
... not necessarily at all, at all: see the apple above, and also cases
like a food rich in gamma-tocopherol, whose benefits in fighting OTHER
free radicals are ignored by the test; and, again, even if it has an
'antioxidant' effect, that doesn't mean that there is necessarily a
health benefit, or that the heath benefit is mediated by that effect.
>>>Thus, a biology background and a detailed understanding of the
complexities of the absorption, pharmacokinetics, and disposition
of even those antioxidants widely-alleged to be beneficial would
give a far more complex and nuanced insight into the silliness of
such widely-practiced nonsense as claiming foods to be healthier
based on its ORAC score (or antioxidant levels).
>>>>Right - though high ORAC foods include Acai, Cerasus (Montmorency
tart cherries), prunes, raisins, blueberries, kale, spinach, various
spices, cocoa, wild blueberries, pomegranates and black raspberries -
ARE mostly fine foods - so the "ORAC diet" doesn't look as silly as all
This is just what I meant by "benefit by association." Yes, some of
these foods are healthy, and in some cases some of that health benefit
is related compounds that have antioxidant properties, and in some of
THOSE cases some of the benefit of those compounds is in fact their
antioxidant effect. However:
- some of those foods have no evidence for actually being healthful in
real-world conditions despite their high ORAC value. Eg, I know of no
evidence of any real-world benefit to consumption of acai juice or berries.
- In other cases, their health benefits to the extent that they've been
documented are unrelated to their antioxidant content. Eg, the only
documented benefit to prune consumption of which I'm aware is their
laxative effect, which is related to their fiber content rather than to
antioxidants, tho' their insoluble fiber content may also confer
benefits via the particular compounds' modulatory effect on estrogen
metabolism in women (5). Notably, prunes' high in vitro ORAC score does
NOT appear to translate into any in increase in antioxidant capacity in
the plasma of people eating them (6): "Consumption of dried plums or
dried plum juice did not alter either the [plasma hydrophilic (H-) or
lipophilic (L-) antioxidant capacity] area under the curve (AUC)").
- And in some cases a food's well-supported benefits may be due to
compounds that are, coincidentally, antioxidants but whose benefit is not
mediated via an antioxidant effect. I don't see any examples of this
leaping out to me in the list you give above.
1. Lotito SB, Frei B. Relevance of apple polyphenols as antioxidants in
human plasma: contrasting in vitro and in vivo effects. Free Radic Biol
Med. 2004 Jan 15;36(2):201-11. PMID: 14744632 [PubMed - in process]
2. Lotito SB, Frei B.
Related Articles, Links
Abstract The increase in human plasma antioxidant capacity after apple
consumption is due to the metabolic effect of fructose on urate, not
apple-derived antioxidant flavonoids.
Free Radic Biol Med. 2004 Jul 15;37(2):251-8.
PMID: 15203196 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
3. Lotito SB, Frei B.
Consumption of flavonoid-rich foods and increased plasma antioxidant
capacity in humans: cause, consequence, or epiphenomenon?
Free Radic Biol Med. 2006 Dec 15;41(12):1727-46. Epub 2006 Jun 3. Review.
PMID: 17157175 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
4. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/20 ... 140834.htm
5. Kasim-Karakas SE, Almario RU, Gregory L, Todd H, Wong R, Lasley BL.
Related Articles, Links
Free Full Text Effects of prune consumption on the ratio of
2-hydroxyestrone to 16alpha-hydroxyestrone.
Am J Clin Nutr. 2002 Dec;76(6):1422-7.
PMID: 12450912 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
6. Prior RL, Gu L, Wu X, Jacob RA, Sotoudeh G, Kader AA, Cook RA.
Related Articles, Links
Abstract Plasma antioxidant capacity changes following a meal as a
measure of the ability of a food to alter in vivo antioxidant status.
J Am Coll Nutr. 2007 Apr;26(2):170-81.
PMID: 17536129 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
5) Last but not least... let me give you my opinion on why there is such a push for this kind of information, other than everyone looking for the miracle pill (or now the miracle food).
The typical American diet is nutrient poor because people do not eat real food and instead they load up on processed refined foods. So, lets say they are not willing to totally change their diet, or even make any significant change. However, they are willing to admit they could eat better and benefit from this. And, lets say, in looking at their diet, we see that among other things, it is low in Beta Carotene and in Vit E (besides being very high in cholesterol, fat, saturated fat, salt ,and sugar). So, they say they are willing to make a small change and are willing to substitute or add in one or two servings of healthier food a day. Since, they are only willing to add in (or substitute in ) one of two servings a day, then it would be important to know which foods would be the highest in these nutrients for those one or two foods, since that is ALL they are willing to do. So, lets say we recommend superfood A and superfood B and they agree to add in 2 or 3 servings and yes, this will really raise their levels of beta carotene and vit e.
Great. However, where is there any real evidence that this is going to be good for them. Most real good data is based on dietary patterns and not isolated nutrients.
And, adding in these 2 superfoods has really done nothing to impact the real issues which were the fat, sat fat, cholesterol, salt, sugar, etc.
But, they now walk around thinking they are doing great because they have added in some superfoods. But, big deal! Because, in reality, they still have a super poor diet with a few super foods added in.
To me, that is where the real popularity of this whole approach comes from.
Having said all of this, the bigger picture of what is known and supported by research and actual long lived populations remains... restrict calories 10-20%, aim for a BMI of 18.5 - 22, focus on low calorie dense, high nutrient dense foods, be moderately active, and enjoy life.