I’ve pointed out the shortcomings of government Recommended Daily Allowances (RDAs) numerous times here in Insiders’ Cures and in my Daily Dispatch e-letter (for example, “The RDA to nowhere”). Most RDAs are outdated. And some can be downright lethal (like the RDA for vitamin D, for example, considering today’s science).
Despite all the academic posturing and public funding poured into “updating” RDAs, serious nutritional deficiencies are still an alarmingly frequent problem in the general US population. And unfortunately, nutrient deficiency is often the last thing doctors consider when diagnosing patients.
Instead, they typically put patients on countless medications to alleviate symptoms. Then those drugs cause more symptoms (side effects), requiring even more drugs. It’s a vicious circle. But a brand new study from the University of Geneva in Switzerland revealed another glaring problem with this “Band-Aid” approach…
Researchers found that the very drugs doctors rely on to treat millions of patients each and every day may actually be making them sicker—by depleting their levels of some critical nutrients.
Now, as you know, I’m a firm believer that scientific facts warrant that some medical conditions merit pharmaceutical intervention. And there are still a few truly effective and innovative medications available by prescription, and over the counter.
But turning a blind eye to the potential negative effects these drugs might have on nutrient levels could make things a whole lot worse in the long run. Especially when the use of these drugs is so widespread. Not to mention, many people take multiple medications.
For instance, 40 percent of residents in long-term care facilities are given 9 or more drugs on a daily basis. When
I had my training in gerontology, experienced doctors advised that when an elderly patient came in with new complaints and there was no clear diagnosis, the best course of action is to simply stop all medications for
24 hours. And sure enough, 90% of the time, the patients improve immediately!
So let’s take a look at some of the most common drug classes, the nutrients they deplete, and how you can protect yourself—beginning with blood pressure medications.
That bitter taste may be signaling a bigger problem
While many non-drug therapies can help you effectively reduce stress and maintain blood pressure, hypertension isn’t something to take lightly. Elevated blood pressure is themost serious, proven risk factor for heart disease. This is why I generally recommend taking one of the safe, proven drugs to get and keep your blood pressure as low as possible (within a safe lower floor, of course).
But as the new Swiss study points out, even some effective blood pressure drugs—the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone axis inhibitors (such as Captopril)—cause zinc depletion.
If you also suffer from congestive heart failure or diabetes, which frequently accompany high blood pressure, these other conditions already compromise your zinc levels.
So adding a blood pressure medication to the mix can put you on the fast track to full-blown zinc deficiency.
And zinc deficiency can cause serious problems—from impaired immune function to slow wound healing to abnormal cell division.
Of course, those aren’t necessarily problems that you would notice on a day-to-day basis. But there is one telltale sign that’s much easier to spot. If you notice a bitter or sour taste while taking these drugs, it’s because they have resulted in zinc deficiency. (This taste occurs not when actually swallowing the drugs, or even food, but when your mouth is empty.)
But taking 25 mg of zinc each day should easily prevent blood pressure drugs from depleting your levels. (Of course, this amount of zinc is three times higher than the RDA. Which just proves the point, once again, that these recommended allowances are nothing short of useless in most instances.)
And don’t forget that certain foods— such as organ meats, red meat, seafood, nuts and certain legumes—are also high in bioavailable minerals like zinc.
Of course, diabetes is close on hypertension’s heels, when it comes to potentially deadly diseases that do warrant a prescription drug. Because high blood sugar can be just as much a killer as high blood pressure, I generally recommend patients with Type II diabetes take the drug Metformin. And while Metformin offers the life-saving benefits of reigning in excess blood sugar (while also lowering the risk of cancer, dementia, and other chronic diseases), it’s not without its potential drawbacks…
Keep an eye on your Bs
Overall, Metformin has the properties of a “good” drug. Its benefits far exceed any toxicity at normal, therapeutic doses. Which is not surprising since Metformin is actually the ancient natural herbal remedy
Galegine (or French lilac—a.k.a. goat’s rue). It was well-known and commonly used in ancient Egypt and Rome right through the Middle Ages and Renaissance in Europe.
And it enjoyed its own “renaissance” in Europe and the US once drug manufacturers were able to offer it as a patented drug (it has now gone generic).
But anyone taking Metformin needs to be aware of one downside: It depletes vitamin B12.
I told you about this in the December 2012 issue. But it bears repeating. Especially since studies have shown an almost three times increased rate of vitamin B12 deficiency in people taking Metformin. Vegan and vegetarian diets further increase this risk, since these diets are a poor source of B12 (not to mention many other bioavailable vitamins and minerals).
How can you tell if your vitamin B12 levels are low?
Some of the common symptoms include weakness, fatigue, easy bruising or bleeding, and tingling or numbness in your extremities. This last symptom sometimes gets mis- diagnosed as diabetic neuropathy.
But if you increase your vitamin B12 levels, it may very well go away.
In fact, when my own blood sugar began inching up two years ago, I quickly started taking a low dose of Metformin. Three months later, and 30 pounds lighter (on my “Top-of- the-Food-Chain” diet, detailed in the free bonus reports you received as a new subscriber), my blood sugar was back to normal. But I began noticing numbness in my feet. Fortunately, it wasn’t due to diabetes but to simple vitamin B12 depletion. And I was able to reverse it in just three months taking the vitamin B ingredients found in my Core Brilliance and CoreCell Essentials supplements. (The combination provides an optimal amount of the B vitamins, which are best taken as a complex).
In general, a 2 mg per day dose of B12 should be plenty to get your blood levels above 200 picomoles/ Liter—and avoid any potentially dangerous deficiencies. (And, yes, in case you were wondering—this dose is higher than the RDA. By nearly 1,000 times, in fact.) Or you can get a vitamin B12 injection (usually 1 mg intramuscular injection weekly).
But B12 isn’t the only essential B-vitamin that Metformin can interfere with. It can also deplete your folic acid levels. Supplementing with 1 to 5 mg per day should keep blood levels normal. (Once again, these doses are higher than the RDA—up to 20,000 times higher.)
So, yes, even “good” drugs—like proven blood pressure medications and Metformin—can have their drawbacks. But the Swiss study I mentioned earlier also turned up more bad news about a couple of already questionable “bad” drugs.
Statins go from bad to worse
Cholesterol-lowering statin drugs may be blockbusters for the pharmaceutical industry. But they’re an all-around disaster in every other respect. While these are among the most prescribed drugs in the world, their effects on micronutrients have been rarely studied. It’s already relatively well-known that they deplete coenzyme Q10. (In fact, Merck took out a patent on a statin/ CoQ10 combination years ago…but never brought that product to the market). But now you can also add vitamin D to the list of statin-depleted nutrients.
Since CoQ10 is critical for muscle health, including the heart muscle, and vitamin D is now proven to lower heart disease and mortality, this is troubling indeed for your heart health.
If you’re going to take a statin (and, again, I don’t necessarily think you—or anyone—should), then supplementing with 1,500 to 2,000
IU per day of vitamin D should be required. (This is two to three times higher than the government’s confused and clearly inadequate recommendations.)
And you’ll also need 100 to 200 mg per day of CoQ10 (three to six times higher than the RDA amount).
Problems with PPIs are enough to give you heart burn!
I have always thought proton pump inhibitors (or PPIs), are a bad idea. They’re also ridiculously over- prescribed.
PPIs (e.g., Omeprazole) treat heartburn, or “acid reflux,” basically by interfering with digestion (reducing acid levels in the stomach). Not surprisingly, they also interfere with absorption of several key vitamins— including vitamin B12 and vitamin C.
PPIs also interfere with the complex metabolism of the key minerals calcium, magnesium, and even iron, causing iron deficiency. They also interfere with the normal flora of the intestine, or the microbiome. This could have potentially far-reaching effects on health (see the December 2012 Insiders’ Cures cover story, Type III diabetes).
Anyone taking a PPI should supplement with 2 mg per day of vitamin B12 and 500 mg per day of vitamin C (which is five to six times the RDA). Cranberry juice can also help reverse interference with nutrient absorption caused by PPIs.
Keep in mind many of these common drugs are prescribed in combination, which potentially depletes micronutrients even further.
And beware of vegetarian diets, which put you at a disadvantage in the first place from an optimal nutrition standpoint for many of these micronutrients.
Between the inadequacy of RDAs and the common use of nutrient-depleting drugs (even ones I generally recommend as a first-line defense against the common killers of diabetes and high blood pressure) it would be wise for essentially everyone to at least supplement with vitamin B12, vitamin C and vitamin D as well as the minerals zinc, selenium, and magnesium.
No one is “immune” to nutrient deficiencies
Of course, it’s important to note that, common as they are, these four types of drugs aren’t the only cause of nutrient deficiencies. And people taking them aren’t the only ones who need supplements. In fact, there’s increasing evidence that many common diseases and medical conditions—such as age-related eye diseases, depression, heart disease and chronic inflammation—actually occur primarily as a result of vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
Ideally, you would be able to get all—or at least most—of the nutrients you need from a healthy, well-balanced diet. Unfortunately, it’s becoming clear that even if your diet consisted of the healthiest foods available, the average American couldn’t possibly eat enough of them for optimal health and nutrition. Some of the essential vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, and amino acids humans need simply cannot be made in the human body, and you can’t get enough from foods available today.
In fact, my little old, neighborhood medical school and hospital (Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital) just did some research on this topic. They set out to determine whether or not women could possibly eat enough of the recommended foods to get sufficient intakes of the nutrients they need every day.
To make a long study short, the answer is “no.”
The researchers concluded that a woman cannot meet her nutrient needs, even on an “optimal” diet of 1,500 calories per day.
For instance, some researchers have concluded you would need to eat 13 to 14 oranges per day to get optimal vitamin C levels. Meanwhile, the government recommends five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. And now, the FDA is in the process of mounting a new “war” on apples and oranges and other healthy fruits, as I told you in the Daily Dispatch “Big brother takes away those tempting apples” back in May.
So the case for supplements is becoming more and more compelling.
Unfortunately, the dietary supplement industry is full of non-science based sales and marketing firms that promote their products based solely on the latest fads—not on the latest medical and scientific findings.
Information you can trust is the first step. And that’s why I began writing Insiders’ Cures and the Daily Dispatch. And why I developed my SmartScience Nutritionals line of nutritional supplements.
Just as the name implies, the products are based on science—not hype. And I’m also proud to be able to say we’re working with what I have found to be the highest-quality, science-based dietary supplement formulators and manufacturers in the world (which I found after two decades of searching and due diligence on site).
The bottom line is, if you’re going to take supplements—and, based on the mounting evidence, it certainly appears that you should—it is necessary to seek out the highest-quality formulas available. Otherwise, you will not get the results you seek and may come to the incorrect conclusion that nutrients don’t work well enough. Which would be a shame…considering the alternatives.
The aspirin warning you haven’t heard
Prescription drugs aren’t the only medications that can deplete your body of valuable nutrients. Even common, over the counter drugs can have these unintended consequences.
For example, aspirin (acetyl-salicylic- acid) can cause vitamin C deficiency over time (after three years or so of treatment). Especially when it’s used in high doses, like those typically needed to relieve inflammation or rheumatic conditions.