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  Messages 1-6 from 6 matching the search criteria.
L-Arginine An Amino Acid Essential Or Not You Be The Judge? Darrell Miller 1/6/09
Natural Bar Soaps for the Kitchen and Bathroom Darrell Miller 1/23/08
Elder Berry - For Natural Respiratory Health Darrell Miller 6/30/05
Bio-Chelation Darrell Miller 6/29/05
L-ARGININE - For Increased Circulation Darrell Miller 6/29/05
Truth in Labeling Darrell Miller 6/14/05



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L-Arginine An Amino Acid Essential Or Not You Be The Judge?
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Date: January 06, 2009 04:01 PM
Author: Darrell Miller (dm@vitanetonline.com)
Subject: L-Arginine An Amino Acid Essential Or Not You Be The Judge?

L-Arginine is an amino acid that is one of 20 needed by the body for its existence. To some, it is not what is known as an essential amino acid, since it can be biosynthesized by the body, but arginine is termed a conditionally essential amino acid in that we must include some in our diet because our biochemistry does not produce all that our body needs, particularly during the growing years.

Amino acids are the building blocks of life, and are the units from which proteins and ultimately our DNA are built. In fact DNA contains the blueprints for every protein used by our bodies, including all the enzymes without which our biochemistry could not occur. When a supply of a particular protein is needed, the DNA template provides the sequence of amino acids needed to produce it.

Of the 20 amino acids we need, only 10 can be produced by our body: the other 10 must be included in our diet and are termed 'essential' because they are an essential part of our diet, just as vitamins and minerals are. Without an adequate supply of essential components, we cannot survive, and if the essential amino acids are depleted in our diet then the body will break down muscle tissue to release them.

Although L-arginine is termed a 'conditionally' essential amino acid, it is included by many among the 10 regarded as being essential. Hence, depending upon who you read, it can be either essential or non-essential. That is because, as inferred earlier, arginine is needed for growth and development, and there is insufficient in the diet to meet these needs. Therefore, while it is essential in cases where growth is still taking place, it is not in those where normal growth is complete.

Proteins are essential for all animal life, forming not only the enzymes, or biochemical catalysts, but also muscles and DNA among other bodily tissues. Protein is also a necessary part of our diet, and it is from protein, animal or vegetable, that we get the amino acids in our diet. L-arginine is one of these, being available from all meats and seafood’s, and vegetables rich in protein such as soy, seeds, nuts and grains.

So what does arginine do for us, quite a lot in fact, many of its functions being related to our health? Arginine plays an important role in the healing of wounds, especially bone, assisting the immune function, decreasing blood pressure and speeding up the repair time of tissue. However, it possesses other properties such as increasing muscle mass, helping to increase male fertility and improving the circulation.

It also helps to remove ammonia from the body, and is a precursor for the biosynthesis of nitric oxide (NO2). It is in the way that L-arginine works with the nitrogen stores of the body that we will focus on here, prior to touching on its other properties.

L-Arginine transports, stores and excretes nitrogen, and used biochemically to manufacture nitric oxide. This oxide of nitrogen plays a very important role in your body, and is produced in every cell of your body. Nitric oxide helps in the dilation of your blood vessels, allowing a reduction in blood pressure, better circulation and helping to prevent a mans man-hood dysfunction, all of which are due to its relaxing effect on smooth muscle contraction and the promotion of the increased blood flow necessary for men and their functions. It is also important to your immune system and nervous system.

It works in a similar way to the effect of nitroGlycerine on the heart: this is converted in the body to nitric oxide which relaxes the blood vessels and so reduces the amount of work needed by the heart. The way in which L-arginine forms nitric oxide is by the action of the enzyme nitric oxide synthase.

The amino acid is also an important component of the Citric Acid or Kreb's cycle, where it reacts with ammonia which is a toxic by-product in the generation of energy in the mitochondria. Ammonia is converted to urea by L-arginine and excreted from the body. This is another way in which L-arginine is involved in the storage and use of nitrogen-containing compounds in your biochemistry.

It was mentioned earlier that arginine is an essential amino acid for children. Studies have indicated that it supports the release of the human growth hormone from the pituitary gland although the amount released through supplementation of the amino acid varies widely between individuals. The growth hormone maintains the production of proteins and muscle tissue in the body cells. This reduces as we age, and arginine becomes non-essential, the smaller amounts needed in our biochemistry being manufactured by the body.

The anabolic effect of the supplement is believed to increase the effectiveness of exercise intended to increase muscle bulk and reduce the percentage of body fat, and many take L-arginine as a supplement while undergoing such anabolic fitness and exercise programs. It is normally best to start with low supplement levels and work up due the potential side effects (diarrhea and nausea).

Arginine is an important component in the body's healing mechanisms for both tissue and bone, and studies have confirmed accelerated healing of wounds and fractures with arginine supplementation. Although the mechanism by which this occurs is not yet understood, there is evidence that it may be connected with the nitric oxide pathway and increased blood flow, and also with its effect on the immune system in reducing inflammation at the healing site.

Diabetics, however, should be careful with substances that promote the release of growth hormone, and children with incomplete bone growth should also use such agents only under medical supervision. With diabetics, their condition could be either exacerbated or improved, and those with herpes and some psychotic conditions should also be careful.

Nitrogenous compounds are essential to life, and L-arginine plays a significant role in the storage, use and secretion of them. Without it life would not be possible, although it is its visible uses, such as the effect of nitrous oxide on blood flow and of proteins on muscle metabolism, for which it is best known to those that use it, either as a supplement or as a remedy. Pure supplement form is available at your local or internet health food store.

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Natural Bar Soaps for the Kitchen and Bathroom
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Date: January 23, 2008 11:59 AM
Author: Darrell Miller (dm@vitanetonline.com)
Subject: Natural Bar Soaps for the Kitchen and Bathroom

Good natural bar soaps that contain only substances that are good for your skin are available, although most people pay little attention to them. Many people might be unaware of the fact but the skin is the largest organ of the body. As such, the skin needs taken care of just as much as any other major organ, yet few people pay much attention to what they bring into contact with it. Although a lot of money is spent on body products, do you really know what your skin needs for optimum health and what substances can do it harm?

Your skin carries out many functions other than keeping the bits inside that should be kept inside. It is a natural thermostat, containing the sweat glands that dampens it and allows evaporation to cool you down. It contains hairs and subcutaneous fat, both of which help you to remain warm when the external temperature is low. Your skin is designed to remain supple, and so allow free movement of the various parts of your body.

It is an ideal waterproof covering for your body that also protects you from infection. Although infection can set in if the skin is ruptured through cuts or grazes, the skin itself rarely suffers from surface infections when related to the number of infectious agents it is constantly in contact with.

The health of your skin is very important, especially in view of the fact that it regularly comes into contact with some very hazardous substances. What may not have occurred to you is that one of the many functions of your skin is to eliminate some of the body’s waste products. It does this when you sweat and the toxins that are emitted can harm it. Although not often infected, it does suffer from complaints such as psoriasis, eczema and acne that are not primarily caused by bacterial agents or viruses, and hence not true infections.

These conditions, however, are caused largely through the emission of toxic agents through the sweat glands. Acne for instance is caused by excessive emission of sebum that combines with dead skin cells to form acne which can also become infected with bacteria. Psoriasis is the excessive formation of skin cells at too rapid a rate, the true causes of which are as yet unknown. Skin cells can become cancerous due to excessive exposure to sunlight or ultra violet radiation, and skin cancer is the most common type of cancer that your doctor is liable to come across.

If you suffer from any specific skin condition, such as acne, or even dry skin that can be caused through excessive exposure to degreasing agents or dry winds, then your skin will need special care. The soap you use is very important in the way you care for your skin, and many people will use soaps that contain many ingredients that they cannot pronounce let alone understand.

Your skin needs cleansed regularly since it comes into contact with many dangerous and toxic substances. Apart from the everyday pollution of traffic fumes and factory emissions, there are also the substances that contaminate your skin at work and at home. At home specially, domestic cleaners can be very harsh on your skin, consisting of substances that are intended to clean away greases and oils, the very types of substance that protect your skin from the elements. When you clean your oven or your sink without gloves, you also clean off the protective oily layer on your skin and leave it open to bacterial attack.

Your skin can also become sensitized to many substances, so that whenever it comes into contact with them it promotes an allergic reaction that can cause irritations so severe that your life can become very miserable. Many people are allergic to various types of soap or detergent because they have become sensitized to them, and are unable to use that type of cleanser after sensitization.

Many soaps contain active ingredients that are intended to carry out specific functions. Thus, some contain antibacterial agents to inhibit the growth of specific types of bacteria on your skin, while others contain detergents to improve their cleaning power. However, some detergents can be very harsh on your skin, and try to avoid bar soaps containing PEG-6 methyl ether or butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT). These can be harmful to your skin. There are others, and if your skin is sensitive try to avoid soaps containing animal products or petroleum derivatives.

Take tetrasodium EDTA, which is present in common bar soaps. It enhances the penetration of substances through your skin, which means that it can also enhance the penetration of the lees welcome ingredients in the soap as well as the moisturizers. Substances as sodium etidronate that is a synthetic preservative that might cause irritation to your skin and mucus membranes. There are several other synthetic detergents that are ingredients in bar soaps, and many kitchen soaps contain the same ingredients as personal or bathroom soaps, the difference between them being only in their moisturizer and perfume content.

Other ingredients than can cause potential problems are limonene, linalool and camphor, all of which can give rise to unwelcome conditions such as irritation or respiratory problems. The first two of these are common in bar soaps, as are benzaldehyde and benzyl alcohol which are irritants. Alpha-pinene, found in some bar soaps, is a sensitizer than can damage your immune system. Unless you know what a specific ingredient is, don’t use the soap. Instead you should use pure natural bar soaps containing antioxidants that are good for your skin.

A pure soap should contain the fat or oil that it is made from, good examples being coconut or palm oils, water, a water softener to enable the soap to cleanse the skin properly, an example being one of the penetrates, a moisturizer such as Glycerine or lanolin and possibly a perfume derived from natural sources. Salt is also frequently used, and is a good bactericide.

Wherever possibly, you should choose a natural soap containing antioxidants. Citrus soaps, for example, contain vitamin C although many soaps contain antioxidants such as beta carotenes, vitamin A and vitamin E. Since soap consists of both oils and water, you can have both oil and water soluble antioxidants in your soap. The antioxidants help to protect your skin from the ravages of pollution and the effects of the sun’s rays, both of which generate free radicals that can accelerate the aging and wrinkling of your skin.

A good antioxidant, moisturizer and wetting agent in your bar soap will help to protect your skin from the effects of atmospheric pollutants, the drying effect of the sun and wind and also effectively cleanse the skin surface and pores of everyday dirt. If this is associated with an absence of synthetic chemicals that can cause irritation then you will be giving your skin the best protection that you can. This is true of soaps intended either for the kitchen or the bathroom.



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Elder Berry - For Natural Respiratory Health
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Date: June 30, 2005 09:30 AM
Author: Darrell Miller (dm@vitanetonline.com)
Subject: Elder Berry - For Natural Respiratory Health

Elder Berry By Ellen J. Kamhi, Ph. D. with Dorie Greenblatt The plant known as Elder Berry occurs as several different species and grows throughout Europe and North America. It can be a tall tree or smaller bush, earning it the knickname "Dwarf Elder". The berries that appear as the ripe fruits can range in color from red to black. Only the blue/black berries are medicinal. The genus and species name for this variety is Sambucus nigra. This plant has a long history of use as both a food and medicine in many countries. In England, for example, it was a common belief that Elder-Berry was a favorite tree of witches who enjoyed residing among its branches. To disturb such a tree was thought to incur a witch's wrath. To this day, many British still refuse to cut an Elder Tree down or burn its branches. In Denmark, the tree was said to house Hylde-Moer, "The Elder Tree Mother", who would haunt anyone found harming the tree. In addition, many believed that an Elder Tree was a symbol of "good luck" if found growing on one's property.

As a food source Elder Berries are commonly made into jams, jellies, chutneys and wine. As a medicinal, the fruit is often prepared as a syrup. For example, the "Duke of Monmouth's Recipe" was made with Elder syrup and other herbs, and was used for sciatica. Native Americans used different parts of the plant for infections, coughs and skin conditions. Today Elder can be found listed as an "official medicine" in the Holland pharmacopeia, and was listed in the past in the pharmacopeias of both England and the United States.

The most common medicinal uses for Elder Berry are:

  • * Cold / Flus
  • * Sore Throats
  • * Herpes breakouts
  • * Swollen Glands

    Elder Berries contain vitamins A, B and C plus various flavonoids including quercetin. However, these substances alone cannot account for its remarkable effect of disarming the symptoms of a cold or flu. An Israeli scientist, Dr. Madeleine Mumcuouglu, Ph.D., performed research that uncovered the mechanism of activity of Elder Berry's anti-cold and flu activity. The flu is triggered by a virus, which must invade living cells in order to reproduce and spread. The virus enters the cell by puncturing the cell's outer membrane with tiny spikes known as hemagglutinin. Dr. Mumcuoglu discovered that the active ingre- dients in Elder Berry bind onto the hemagglutin, deactivating it and ultimately preventing the piercing of the cellular membranes.

    Scientific investigations collaborate the effectiveness of Elder berry. One scientific study tracked a reduction of flu symptoms during an outbreak of influenza. (Zakay-Rones Z, Varsano N, Zlotnik M, et al. Inhibition of several strains of influenza virus in vitro and reduction of symptoms by an elderberry extract (Sambucus nigra L.) during an outbreak of influenza B Panama. J Alt Compl Med 1995; 1:361-9.) An added advantage to the use of Elder Berry is its record of safety. There are no known adverse reactions to the use of Elder Berry, although the possibi-lity of an individual allergic reaction can never be discounted.

    Nature's Answer® offers Elder Berry in an alcohol-free, tangy-tasting 4oz. liquid herbal extract form. This concentrated (1:1) maximum strength fluid extract contains 5,000mg of Elder Berry in each 1 teaspoonful dose. Nature’s Answer® also supplies Elderberry in two encapsulated products, Sambucus & Ester-C®, and Sambucus & Maitake Bio-Beta Glucan™.

    A great companion product is Nature's Answer®'s Elder Flower (organic alcohol). Flowers from the Elder tree contain tannins that have been shown to help dry up excess mucous, and can act as an expectorant.

    One final note...when deciding on an Elder berry liquid, remember to check the kind of sweetener it contains. Many brands add sugar or sorbitol, while Nature's Answer's® Elder berry contains only pure coconut Glycerine.

    Ester-C® is a licensed trademark of InterCal Corporation and manufactured under U.S. patent #4,822,816 and other patent applications.

  • These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. They are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

    --
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    Bio-Chelation
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    Date: June 29, 2005 05:38 PM
    Author: Darrell Miller (dm@vitanetonline.com)
    Subject: Bio-Chelation

    Bio-Chelation* By Ellen J. Kamhi, Ph. D. with Dorie Greenblatt In The Beginning The Bio-Chelated¨ process describes a proprietary cold extraction technique developed by Mr. Frank D'Amelio Sr., founder and owner of Nature's Answer¨, and well- respected author*. Long before Nature's Answer¨ was formed (early 1970's), Mr. D'Amelio was immersed in the study of botanical medicine, researching the various herbal texts including the national USP/N.F. (United States Pharmacopeia/National Formularies) dating back to the mid -1800's. (The USP/N.F. is a reference source that provides manufacturing standards and extraction techniques used to make herbal formulas; these standards were considered official prior to 1938.) This authoritative formulary discussed the use of plant parts such as leaf, stem, bark, flowers and roots. It recommended certain solvents known as "menstruums", in which plant parts were soaked in order to extract their active constituents. High heat was also often utilized to concentrate the extract. Mr. D'Amelio noticed that high amounts of solvents, usually alcohol, were often recommended, and that sediment would fall to the bottom (precipitate) in certain solutions. He began to investigate how he could offer the consumer potent herbal products made with very low heat, with minimum precipitation, and without a lot of alcohol!

    A Clue From Nature In working towards the goal of attaining a final botanical extract product with little alcohol, Mr. D'Amelio turned to Nature for the apparent answer. He realized that plants were composed of 80-85% water as well as some alcohols, fats, etc. If plants were able to keep the active constituents in solution and use them as needed mainly through water, not alcohol or other solvents, why couldn't he? Thus, he began a long, in-depth series of experiments with many different plants. Through rigorous research protocols and scientific testing, he discovered that the active constituents of some plants could be extracted using lower alcohol amounts with water and other natural solvents such as organic apple cider vinegar or vegetable Glycerine. At other times, however, higher alcohol was necessary, such as when he was extracting volatile oils like menthol from peppermint. The experimentation process continued, with Mr. D'Amelio documenting the optimum menstruum combinations required for each plant to yield the maximum beneficial components. (Note that there are differences in alcohol. The alcohol consumed in wine and beer is derived through a natural fermentation process with no processing other than filtration. When distilled alcohol is added to an extraction, which some herbal manufacturers use, it effects the body in a more detrimental way; thus the development of the Bio-Chelation¨ process, which uses only organic alcohol).

    The Bio-Chelated¨ Method Is Developed As Mr. D'Amelio continued his experimentation with various plants and menstruums, his extraction processes became more refined, and eventually led to the development of the Bio-Chelated¨ method. The Bio-Chelated¨ method incorporates soaking for a period of time, using different menstruum ratios for different plants to optimize their therapeutic values. Furthermore, this procedure offers additional significant advantages when compared with other types of extraction processes commonly employed by competitors in the herbal industry.

    Bio-Chelation includes the use of "cold extraction", where the plant parts are extracted without being exposed to excessive amounts of heat. Cold extraction helps the herb maintain vital minerals and other trace elements in solution, thus enabling the herb to keep its Holistic Balanceª intact. (Holistic Balanceª means that extracts retain as many of the natural constituents of the original plant as possible.) In addition, the Bio-Chelated¨ process incorporates the use of an exclusive technique that removes much of the alcohol used during the menstruum soaking (maceration) phase, replacing it with vegetable glycerin instead. The resulting yield is an herbal extract that is either alcohol-free, or has a low alcohol content. (Both alcohol-free and low alcohol products from Nature's Answer feature vegetable glycerin only. Glycerin is used because it helps bind certain plant constituents, is natural to the body, is easily absorbed by the cells and has little insulin response. Only vegetable glycerin has been used since 1972. In addition, all alcohol used in Nature's Answer's low alcohol formulas is certified organic.)

    The Bio-Chelated¨ method was the first extraction process to yield a 12-14% alcohol extract in the herbal industry!

    Nature's Answer Stands The Test of Time Over the last quarter of a century (since 1972), the Bio-Chelated¨ cold extraction process has been painstakingly tested and proven to stand the test of time. Incorporating Mr. D'Amelio's proprietary cold extraction process in today's manufacturing procedures continues to yield a measurably superior product. One such example is Saw Palmetto from Nature's Answer¨, a product that is produced utilizing our Bio-Chelated¨ method versus the more expensive CO2 method. Our Bio-Chelated¨, cold extraction process yields a product that not only contains the same amounts of active constituents as the more expensive CO2 extracted product, but features a higher percentage of polyphenols, the compounds responsible for the herb's antioxidant properties. The end result is a Saw Palmetto extract that maintains its holistic balance! (Note that most prior successful studies done on Saw Palmetto utilized grain alcohol extracts which contained naturally occurring polyphenols; the CO2 extracted products do not contain polyphenols!) Although larger quantities of herbal products are now being produced as compared to the earlier experimental batches made by Frank D'Amelio, his founding corporate philosophy remains intact - combine the greatest care with the highest quality of raw material to create the ultimate herbal extract that works. After all, that's what it's all about, isn't it? Bio-Chelated¨..Another reason to count on Nature's Answer Without Question! Manufacturing Highlights:

    State-of-The-Art Laboratory Manufacturing Equipment HPLC, UV, IR, GC/MS, LC/MS, TOC and Densitometer 316 Pharmaceutical Grade Stainless Steel or Glass Lined Extraction Vessels (instead of the inexpensive, more commonly used plastic or polyethylene extraction vessels; these vessels are porous and may contain microorganisms, residual plasticizers that are difficult to clean and could cross contaminate different batches of herbs) FDA Registered & Pharmaceutically Licensed cGMP and SOP Compliant Manufactured in the U.S.A. *Botanicals - A Phytocosmetic Desk Reference (1999), Botanical & Herbal Folklore (1974), The Botanical Practitioner (1978) Bio-Chelated¨ is a registered trademark of Bio-Botanica Inc.¨ Holistic Balanceª is a trademark of Bio-Botanica Inc.¨

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    Vitanet ®

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    L-ARGININE - For Increased Circulation
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    Date: June 29, 2005 10:16 AM
    Author: Darrell Miller (dm@vitanetonline.com)
    Subject: L-ARGININE - For Increased Circulation

    L-Arginine

    L-Arginine is an amino acid present in the proteins of all life forms. Under normal circumstances your body can synthesize sufficient quantities from your diet to meet your needs, but in times of stress conditions, such as trauma and wound healing, you may not be able to manufacture enough. L-Arginine’s primary function involves the metabolism of protein and nitrogen. But the scientific community recently became excited about arginine’s newfound role as a promoter of cardiovascular health. L-Arginine is the primary precursor to nitric oxide, a small molecule that is responsible for relaxing blood vessels. If you are among the many people concerned about your circulatory health, then L-arginine should be a part of your wellness program. Source Naturals L-ARGININE is available in 500 mg tablets or capsules and the convenient higher potency 1,000 mg tablets.

    L-Arginine is an amino acid that is found in most proteins consumed in your diet. A small amount is produced in the liver but it is predominantly synthesized in the kidneys. L-Arginine has several roles in the body, such as assisting in wound healing, helping remove excess ammonia from the body, stimulating immune function, and promoting secretion of several hormones, including glucagons, insulin, and growth hormone. It plays an important role in muscle metabolism by working to transport, store and excrete nitrogen. L-Arginine is required by the body to synthesize nitric oxide, which is produced by all tissues of the body, and plays important roles in the cardiovascular system, immune system and nervous system. Nitric oxide supports blood vessel dilation, which may help circulation.

    Cardiovascular Support

    L-Arginine is a nitric oxide precursor. Nitric oxide is formed from arginine via the enzyme nitric oxide synthase or synthasetase (NOS). One of its functions is to regulate smooth muscle contraction. Nitric oxide’s effect on blood vessels is the reason nitroGlycerine is prescribed for patients with pain that results from inadequate blood flow to the heart. The nitroGlycerine is converted to nitric oxide, which relaxes blood vessels and in turn reduces the workload of the heart.

    Protein Metabolism

    L-Arginine is a key nutrient in the energy generating Krebs cycle, where it participates in the detoxification of ammonia. Ammonia is a toxic byproduct of energy metabolism. It is converted to urea and eliminated from the body. Any L-arginine not converted to urea enters general circulation, where it is distributed to various tissues and metabolized for other uses such as protein synthesis.

    A Wellness Revolution – Taking Charge of Your Health

    Taking personal responsibility for your health is at the heart of the wellness revolution. Mainstream health care has still not caught up to this wellness approach that health food stores have been promoting for decades. Source Naturals is committed to bringing you effective, safe, advanced natural products like L-ARGININE for your lifelong health.

    References:
    Lerman, A. et al. 1998. Long-term L-arginine supplementation improves small-vessel coronary endothelial function in humans. Circulation. 97:2123-2128. Creager M. et al. 1992. L-arginine improves endothelium-dependent vasodilation in hypercholesterolemic humans. J Clin Invest. 90:1248-1253. Moncada S., Higgs A. 1993. The LArginine –Nitric Oxide Pathway. The New England Journal of Medicine. 329 (27):2002-2012.



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    Vitanet ®

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    Truth in Labeling
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    Date: June 14, 2005 10:44 AM
    Author: Darrell Miller (dm@vitanetonline.com)
    Subject: Truth in Labeling

    Truth in Labeling by Diane Stanton Energy Times, June 14, 2004

    Do you or don't you read food labels when you shop? If you don't, you're missing out on a prime source of information about your meals. If you want control of your health, focus on package labels and pick your foods carefully.

    The large print on food labels focus on what are called macronutrients: carbohydrates, fat and protein. Some of the smaller categories convey information about vitamins, fiber, and minerals, as well as the totals of fat and saturated fat contained in food. So, you have no excuse for claiming ignorance about your diet: the truth is in the labels.

    Food labels can be confusing to the uninitiated. Go into a big food store and you can be faced with what seems to be a forest of food information: more than 15,000 labels. Add to that fact that every year more than 30,000 new food products can be introduced to the marketplace, and what you're faced with is a jungle of food labels.

    That overwhelming wealth of food label information doesn't mean you should throw up your hands in dismay and give up reading and deciphering labels. You should arm yourself against that sea of labels with knowledge and, by understanding them, end your confusion and build your health.

    Label History

    A hundred years or so ago, food labels were only required to list the name of the food contained inside the package. The contents, quality and processes used to make the food were often a mystery. Little or no disclosure to consumers was made about how their food was created.

    By the early 1920s, the federal government, via the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), began requiring food companies to list the net weight of food on labels as well as the names and addresses of food processors and distributors. Finally, by the 1970s, listing basic nutritional information was mandated in a uniform way so that shoppers could have some basis for comparing foods. Then, in 1990, the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act made major alterations to the kinds of labels that had to be included on food packages.

    The FDA and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) required significant changes to food labels that were supposed to make it easier for consumers to eat healthier diets. The labels requirements of 1994 included five major changes:

  • • The nutrition information on the label had to be printed in larger, more legible type.
  • • This condensed information had to be on the back or side of food packaging and titled as "Nutrition Facts." This type of information is also shown in grocery stores near the fresh food displays of fish, fruits and vegetables.
  • • The label had to include a column of information tagged as the "% Daily Value," designed to help consumers understand how the food could fit into a healthy diet.
  • • Each label had to include information about fat, cholesterol, fiber, sugar, calories from fat, and other information relevant to designing a healthy diet.
  • • The computed serving sizes were supposed to be more realistic and reflect the amount of food people actually eat at one sitting.

    Label Questions

    Consumer questions regarding food labels have led researchers to look into ways to help shoppers comprehend what food labels tell them. These studies are designed to help consumers match up their nutrition requirements with the foods they buy.

    For instance, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, scientists have devised a label tool called See It, Do It, Teach It to help people improve their diets through comprehension of food label information. " One of the goals of the project was to help...teenaged girls and menopausal women understand how they can get the daily requirement for calcium into their diet in order to help prevent osteoporosis," says Karen Chapman-Novakofski, PhD, associate professor and nutritionist in the school's College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.

    According to the See It, Do It, Teach It program, you should think of food labels as consisting of two sections:

  • • Food items you should limit: total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium and, if you're eating a low-carb diet, total carbohydrates
  • • What you may need to increase: vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium and iron

    " Much more attention has been paid to what people should limit rather than the nutrients needed. The average consumer doesn't know, for instance, how much vitamin A 10% of the Daily Value is, or how much calcium 25% of the Daily Value is," Dr. Chapman-Novakofski says.

    Upping Calcium Intake

    In their eight-week study of people's calcium consumption (Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior 4/04), the University of Illinois research team found that people didn't know how much calcium was in the food they ate.

    After the initial part of the study, in which participants were shown how to look for calcium on labels, "the post-test revealed that the participants significantly increased their calcium intake to 821 mg per day, up from 372 mg per day," notes Dr. Chapman-Novakofski.

    " That's a lot closer to the daily requirements of 1,200 mg per day for men and women over 50, 1,000 mg for men and women aged 19 through 50 and 1,300 mg per day for [youths aged] 9 to [18] years," she adds.

    Parts of the Label

    The first item at the top of a nutrition food label tells you the portion size that the label measures. An important point to remember: these sizes are determined individually by each manufacturer. Consequently, all of the other values on the label are measured per portion.

    So, if you are comparing foods made by two different companies that employ very different portion sizes in their nutritional calculations, your label comparisons may be complicated.

    Another fact to be aware of: the listed portion size may be an odd division of the food within the container and not reflect a common-sense division. For instance, some food packages are labeled as containing 2.5 portions.

    And, to make things even more interesting, small boxes of candy that you might think contain barely enough for one helping may be labeled by the manufacturer as having two or more portions. As a result, if you eat the whole box, you often have to at least double the number of indicated calories, etc. to figure out the nutrients and calories you are consuming.

    The section of the label that notes calories, calories from fat and percent daily values is listed under the portion size. Here you are told how many calories you consume when you devour one portion and how many of those calories are derived from fat.

    This label focus on fat originated when consumers and dietitians were very concerned about Americans' fat consumption and hadn't yet switched their focus to carbohydrate consumption as a prevalent dietary health priority.

    Also included on the label: the daily value percentages aimed at showing you how much out of a total day's intake of various nutrients a portion bestows upon you.

    These percentage numbers are based on a theoretical analysis of a diet that contains 2,000 or 2,500 calories a day. (A notation at the bottom of the label tells you whether the calculation is based on 2,000 or 2,500.)

    Carb Facts

    If you've been eating a low-carb diet (or are planning this type of diet), the section of the label that lists carbohydrates may be especially useful. Under this heading, the label lists the totals for fiber and sugar.

    No matter what diet you are on, dietary fiber is desirable, since it represents indigestible carbohydrates that both pass through you without conveying any calories and keep beneficial bacteria in your digestive tract healthy.

    Most people want to limit their sugar totals, however, since this nutrient may raise your risk of being overweight and, when you eat a lot of it, may contribute to immune problems.

    Interestingly enough, when food chemists compute what is in food, they perform lab tests known as assays to distinguish its ingredients. (The manner in which these tests are performed are very strictly regulated by the FDA.)

    In fact, just about every nutrient listed on a food label is determined by laboratory test except for the carbohydrate content: the amount of water, fat, crude protein and ash are determined this way. But the total carbs are computed by simply subtracting the total of the other ingredients from the total amount of food, a kind of process of elimination.

    So while fat and protein are measured with precise lab tests, carbohydrate totals are figured by the leftovers. (The water and ash, by the way, are not usually listed on food labels.)

    Within the general carbohydrate group, are several categories of carbohydrates that produce very different effects in your body. These categories can be divided into sugar, sugar alcohols, dietary fiber and a collection of various chemicals that include organic acids, flavonoids, gums, lignans and others.

    According to the FDA, the food label only has to list the total carbs, sugar and dietary fiber. But some food companies now list things like sugar alcohols.

    Blood Sugar Effects

    Not all of these types of carbohydrates behave the same way in your body. For example, when your body digests table sugar, it turns immediately into blood sugar. So sugar and most other carbohydrate is what we call "digestible carbohydrate." Other carbs, such as sugar alcohol or Glycerine, can be digested but do not turn to blood sugar. Still others, such as dietary fiber, are indigestible and pass through your body without impacting your blood sugar level.

    To date, the FDA has not focused on these important biochemical differences and treats all carbohydrates alike. This means that when you look at a food label, you do not see a number for the carbs that impact your blood sugar level. To do so, simply subtract the number of grams of fiber from the total number of carbohydrate grams.

    Net Carbs

    Recently, the phrases "low carb," "net carb" and "impact carbs" have begun to appear on food labels. These are not defined by the FDA; they were put on labels by by companies to help consumers pick out foods that are acceptable on low-carb diets. To arrive at the total of net carbs, food companies subtract the total amount of fiber and sugar alcohol from the total carbohydrates.

    Fiber Calculations

    Since the body cannot digest fiber, this nutrient (which is still important for good health) is not calculated into the total amount of carbohydrates. As for sugar alcohols, while-technically speaking-these are carbs and they do have calories, they have little effect on blood sugar and usually are not counted in total carbohydrates.

    According to the American Dietetic Association, people with diabetes who are managing their blood sugars using the carbohydrate counting method should "count half of the grams of sugar alcohol as carbohydrates since half of the sugar alcohol on average is digested.

    " Fiber is not digested, however. If the serving of food has more then 5 grams of fiber one should subtract the grams of fiber from the total carbohydrate grams." As you can see, when it comes to food, as in most things, knowledge is power. If you want power over your health, you need power over the food you eat. The road to that power is by reading food labels. What's in the food you're eating every day may surprise you.



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