How Much Is Not a Good Thing?

Dear CC, I enjoyed your letter. It really addresses some interesting points. I too, have seen many of my patients taking so many products, and I wonder sometimes about the total effects.

There are potential dangers in taking too much of certain vitamins. Vitamin A and Vitamin D are two examples. Both these nutrients can be toxic to the body in higher dosing. Some levels of nutrients are much too much for children and expectant mothers, so your letter allows me to help clarify this issue.

If you are wondering then, what is the proper dose, you are not alone. Many researchers are trying to understand how much of our vitamins and minerals

are needed to give us better health and longer life. People seem to have individual needs, based on their age, height and weight, gender, and particular events that are occurring in their life. Certain people may have compromised levels of nutrients because their diet is so poor, or their body is in a particular disease state.

There is a great argument in the field of nutrition and medicine, between those that believe we can get adequate vitamins from our food and those that believe this is no longer possible.

With the changes in our diets and the changes in food production over the past hundred years, it is difficult to judge this argument. Foods at the turn of the twentieth century were less processed and refined. Questions concerning the loss of nutrients including enzymes, during food processing, certainly have merit.

On the other hand, scientists also believe that certain foods have increased in healthful purpose after cooking. Tomatoes, for instance, may lose certain vitamins during cooking, but seem to increase potencies of others in the process.

Other research points to the loss of minerals in our plant foods, which have been grown in the same soil for so long that the ground is depleted of these important nutrients. Minerals are important for key functions in our body, and we seem to lose healthy levels in our bodies as we age, so it definitely important to get healthful levels from our food or supplement sources.

CC, another important factor in taking so many natural products is the interaction some of them may have with the medications we take. This area of nutrition is being explored, but not all the evidence is available yet.

It is hard for me to suggest what you can take in one or two pills, to stay healthy. The state of good health in someone requires several considerations. Eating properly, exercising daily, and maintaining low levels of stress are all important in keeping you out of the doctor's office.

I also understand how difficult it is, in this modern world, to truly accomplish these three objectives. Our fast-paced lifestyle and reliance on others to prepare our foods both contribute to less than healthy times of stress. For this reason, I usually will suggest certain nutritional supplements for my clients and patients.

A good multivitamin is the best place to start. Taking a multiple vitamin combination can add a wide array of valuable nutrients to your system. Sometimes, I add a multi-mineral product to the multivitamin, as most of us are not getting enough minerals to support our bones, muscles, and heart.

I also suggest that people add a product containing healthy levels of essential fatty acids. These oils, derived from flaxseed, certain fish, and other plants, are important for so many functions in the body. Studies show that we tend to be deficient in these "good fats" and overfed in "bad fats" from fried and processed foods.

You can supplement your diet with these oils in either liquid or capsule form. Unlike other fats, this form of fatty acids will support your heart and help with maintaining healthy cholesterol levels.

CC, my last piece of advice for you is this. Don't look for your healthcare needs from either your friends or vitamin formulas. Our individual needs for maintaining health vary and there are no magic bullets.

Consult an nutritionally experienced healthcare practitioner before you try any products. Get as much information about products and methods of staying healthy as you can before you begin any health routine including exercise.

If you are uncertain where to start, contact me at the Wellness Store. I can help you with your dietary and supplement needs, and provide you with information about how healthy living can make a difference in your life… and your quality of life.

Questions about Health?
Ask "Mike"
For Consultation with Jerry "Michael" Casso R.Ph.
Phone: (504) 888-3077



Dear Mike,I have heard the term "free radicals" related to damage in the body. Can you please explain this?

MM in Mandeville

Dear MM, You could say that free radicals are the chemical exchanges in the body that cause us to age. They are as destructive as any element in our body and can be created by a number of things that we just can't prevent…and some we can.

Free radicals are unstable molecules in our body that react with other compounds to try to become stable. As they attempt to become stable, free radicals damage normal body tissues, and many researchers suggest that this is our primary aging event.

Oxygen is of course essential to life, since we need it to breathe air in order to sustain life. Yet oxygen is very active and combines readily with many compounds in the body. Some of these compounds can cause damage.During the process that creates energy, some oxygen molecules are converted into oxidizing agents, also called free radicals, such as superoxides or hydrogen peroxide.

In short, MM, what is happening is these elements are "oxidizing" our bodies, not unlike a "rusting" action. As we rust, we age, and you can see what occurs with rust. It destroys. Our body has adapted to the assault of free radicals by creating an opposite action, to stabilize the molecules of damage.

Where Do Free Radicals Come From?

Our environment is a source of free radicals. Ionizing radiation from industrial exposure, sun exposure, X-rays, and certain kinds of foods can all contribute free radicals. Heavy metals (like mercury and lead), tobacco smoke, alcohol, saturated fats, and other elements in our water supply, our foods, and our air supply also contribute. When free radicals enter our body, they react with healthy tissue, setting off potentially damaging reactions. Free radicals are believed to play a role in more than sixty health conditions, including cancer, heart problems and atherosclerosis.

Before you start living in a sterile bubble, let me say that you cannot escape this action - it is a normal part of our lives - but you can help your body to defend itself against this assault. Reducing your exposure to free radicals from the sun is important. Cover up in the sun, or use sunscreen to protect your skin from damage. Try not to breathe in smoke of any kind and avoid rooms that are filled with either smoke or chemicals. Obviously, stop smoking tobacco or inhaling second-hand smoke from others. Stay away from paint and other substances that contain lead, mercury, or cadmium.

What can we do to help prevent free radical damage?

Using certain vitamins and nutrients, known as antioxidants, we may be able to counter free radical damage or prevent it from occurring. Two examples of this are superoxide dismutase and glutathione peroxidase, enzymes produced by the body to diffuse this rusting action.

You can get these nutrients in supplement form, (which I don't recommend because they are not readily absorbed in this form) or you can help your body produce them by getting plenty of the "building blocks" required to create them.

Certain vitamins and minerals act as antioxidants . Vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and several of the B vitamins play a valuable role in "antioxidizing". Manganese, zinc, and selenium are also great free radical fighters.

The nutrient CoQ10

is becoming well known for its role in protecting the heart against free radical damage. We are also now discovering several botanical products that may protect us as well. These include bilberry, tumeric, grape seed, and gingko biloba. Before you rush out and buy these products, first consider your diet. Fresh vegetables and fruits are excellent sources of antioxidants. Nutritionists suggest that the body will make better use of these nutrients in food form than in supplement form.

However, it is suggested that an antioxidant formula will add insurance that you are receiving good stores of these valuable nutrients. A recent study of the dietary habits of physicians indicated that most are taking antioxidant supplements

. It is also known that taking these nutrients in a combination formula will allow for better use of the individual nutrients. For instance, vitamin E and selenium work well together. Vitamin A and zinc seem to partner well also.

MM, free radicals and aging are part of life. Antioxidants are also a part of life. Eat well, consume fresh foods when possible, take your antioxidants daily, and don't worry about the minute actions of the body. While we can't stop the aging clock, we can certainly stall it a bit and enjoy the days by staying healthy and well nourished.

For more quality information related to food and antioxidants, contact me at the Wellness Store. We are trained to help you make wise health choices and provide you with professional services and products for the quality of life. For quality antioxidant formulas, click here.

Questions about Health?
Ask "Mike"
For Consultation with Jerry "Michael" Casso R.Ph.
Phone: (504) 888-3077


The B Vitamin Story

Dear Mike, I have been reading some interesting material about vitamin B-6 and B-12. They seem important to the body for a number of reasons. Do you believe it is important to supplement with these?

WO, Clarksburg

Dear WO, As you may have read, I do believe it is important to supplement with vitamins, particularly if your diet is less than optimal. The two vitamins you bring up are among those that can have added benefit in supplement form.

Many physicians are looking quite closely at vitamins B-6 and B-12. Researchers are continuing to find these vitamins to be useful for enhancing immune function, supporting the heart and nervous system and helping with our energy, but these are only a couple of the benefits of the nutrients.

Heart specialists now recognize the value of both B-6 and B-12 as a factor in the prevention of heart disease. Reduction of homocysteine, a compound that is an indicator of heart attacks, can be aided by the addition of these nutrients (a swell as another B-vitamin, folic acid) to the diet. B-6 is a great nutrient to supplement if there are heart problems or family history of disease of the organ.

Vitamin B-6

Vitamin B-6 is not actually a single compound; it is a family of compounds sold as pyridoxine hydrochloride phosphate. The active ingredient in our body is pyridoxine phosphate. While plant and animal sources contain variations of the nutrient, much of the vitamin derived from the diet is bound in a manner that prevents its absorption and use. For most purposes, pyridoxine is well absorbed and is taken in dosages of 50 mgs. or so daily. In some cases, poor absorption of the nutrient may require larger doses or the use of other forms of the nutrient.

P-5-P, or Pyridoxal-5-phosphate, is considerably more active than other forms of the nutrient. While more expensive than other forms, P-5-P does not produce side effects in the body and, in fact, may be stored in small quantities by the body, which is rare for a water-soluble nutrient. See how important the body views this nutrient?

Alpha-keto glutarate is a form of the nutrient that is highly prized for athletic performance. This form of B-6 is thought to have a higher impact on carbohydrate metabolism. All forms of B-6 seem to work better in the body when used in combination with vitamin B-12. Among the benefits noted are immune enhancement, relief from tissue problems, such as carpal tunnel syndrome and some relief from depression.

The two vitamins also provide support for bones and provide invaluable help with pregnancy, both from an anti-nausea stance as well as gestational diabetes occurrence. Discuss these problems and the help the nutrients may provide with your physician or pharmacist. One of the known problems with vitamin B-6 is its contraindication with individuals taking L-dopa for Parkinson's Disease.

Vitamin B-12

Vitamin B-12 is normally associated with energy and is found most often as a compound, known as cyanocobalamin. You may find this nutrient in conjunction with folic acid and this is a great way to supplement the two, in a combination formula with vitamin B-6 and other B nutrients: a formula known as a B-Complex. Products that feature B-6, B-12 and folic acid take advantage of the synergy of the nutrients, in which the total benefit of the three is better than each of the nutrients taken alone. Vitamin B-12 is used to support the nervous system and may be prescribed therapeutically to aid against mild forms of depression, cases of diabetic neuropathy and pernicious anemia.

It is important for vegetarians to consider supplementing vitamin B-12, which is most often found in meats in the diet. Most good multivitamins will contain a small measure of the nutrient. An excellent form of oral B-12 is in a sublingual form

, (which means taken under the tongue,) and many physicians also offer vitamin B-12 shots for those with problems getting enough into their system. While we are looking at these nutrients, we should also consider other B vitamins as well. There are many supplements that are produced collectively as a B Complex

. The belief in placing all these nutrients together is that they work well as a group and that some of the B vitamins help others to either be better absorbed or better utilized.

These products may be marketed as a "stress" vitamin and indeed the nutrients in the B vitamins are important for aiding in our ability to cope with stress. It should be noted that many of these supplements also feature vitamin C, which is another water-soluble nutrient and used to help the absorption of B vitamins.

WO, talk to your physician or pharmacist about the personal benefits and potential dangers of using these vitamins in your personal health regimen. You can also contact me

for more information. B-6 and B-12…and all the B's… may B just the B-enefit for your B-ody!

Questions about Health?
Ask "Mike"
For Consultation with Jerry "Michael" Casso R.Ph.
Phone: (504) 888-3077



Dear Mike,I now see the nutrient CoQ10 on skin care and my supplements. What is it and how does it benefit me?

FK, Gretna

Dear FK, CoQ10 has been a well-kept secret for years, but is finally getting its acclaim in cosmetics and supplements. And for good reason: it is a wonderful nutrient!

Coenzyme Q10

, known scientifically as Ubiquinone, was once so expensive that only a few well-funded research people could afford it. Thanks to some researchers in Japan, it is now affordable to the masses of people that can indeed use it. First identified in 1957, this unique Co-enzyme is manufactured mainly from beets and sugar cane using a special strain of yeast to extract it.

Prior to its natural method of extraction, CoQ10 was four times as expensive as gold per ounce, but has since become more affordable, allowing for more study of the nutrients and more use by supplement and cosmetic companies.

COQ10 is a biological co-factor in many of the body's metabolic pathways. It is found in all cells of the body, particularly in the heart cells, where it is stored for uses there and elsewhere in the body.

It is found on cosmetic labels because it helps cells to fight oxidation and "to breathe". CoQ10 is an extremely important antioxidant and actually helps other antioxidants to work, including Vitamin E. The combination of these two nutrients plays a powerful role in skin health and heart health.

People use CoQ10 for congestive heart failure, angina, hypertension, protecting the heart during chemotherapy and simply to protect the heart, in cases of family heart history.

In Japan, millions of patients use CoQ10 as part of therapy for cardiovascular disease. In 1974, the Japanese government approved CoQ10 for the treatment of congestive heart failure and the country remains the leading exporter of the nutrient. Our heart researchers are also suggesting it has the potential to improve our heart function.

It is also important for the immune system and has been used to treat breast cancer and to stimulate the immune system in cases of autoimmune diseases, such as AIDS. People suffering from Muscular Dystrophy, Huntington's disease, Chronic Fatigue, and Fibromyalgia have also used the nutrient with good results.
Healthy people also enjoy the use of CoQ10, particularly to increase athletic endurance, and life extension. CoQ10 is a fat-soluble nutrient, meaning it rides on fats within the body. A favorable approach to supplementing with the nutrient is to chew an emulsified tablet and allow it to linger in the mouth and under the tongue. One new form of the nutrient is now available; it uses a dissolvable lozenge that assures quick absorption. Click here to see this product.

The reason for this is twofold. Primarily, it is known that CoQ10

is quite well absorbed in the body from directly under the tongue. Another reason to allow it to linger in the mouth is that it is quite useful in fighting the degeneration of gums. Periodontal disease studies show CoQ10 to be quite useful.
Adverse reactions reported with its use are few, but in some cases it is blamed for gastritis, loss of appetite, nausea and diarrhea. A typical healthful dose of CoQ10 found in supplements is 50-200 mgs. a day. Heart concerns may increase the dose from 100-250 typically. I would not consider suggesting higher does than that, as it can be quite expensive and may create problems by elevating serum aminotransferases. This technical jargon basically means that you might throw off the balance of certain enzymes that exchange chemicals and nutrients in the body.

CoQ10 is an important nutrient for people taking Statin medications, as the prescription medication reduces the levels of COQ10 produced in the body. Oral medications used by diabetics and those with hypoglycemia may also deplete CoQ10 stores from the body. Studies have shown that CoQ10 can decrease insulin requirements in people with diabetes, so it is a good idea to monitor your levels when taking this (or any) nutritional supplement.

FK, either in supplement or cosmetic form, I highly endorse this excellent antioxidant. I am glad the nutritional industry worldwide is performing the types of research that are opening doors for products such as CoQ10.

I hope that the US medical community follows suit and creates a treatment strategy that couples pharmaceutical medicine with nutritional approaches to illness. As natural medicine makes its way into more outlets and practices, I believe we all benefit. You can contact me for more information about CoQ10 or any of the nutrients mentioned on these pages.

Mike Casso, R.Ph.

Questions about Health?
Ask "Mike"
For Consultation with Jerry "Michael" Casso R.Ph.
Phone: (504) 888-3077