Posts Tagged ‘supplements’


By David Grotto, RDN, LDN
As seen on Real Life Nutrition on WebMD

Phytosterols are a plant’s version of cholesterol; however instead of clogging up our arteries, they clean them! Phytosterols promote the movement of cholesterol into the intestinal tract and help block the absorption sites responsible for attracting cholesterol. Think of it like a game of musical chairs. If there are only 10 seats for 10 cholesterol bodies, then all of them will get a seat. But if you add in an additional 10 bodies of phytosterols, odds are that the seats will be divided evenly between cholesterol and phytosterols allowing for the remaining cholesterol to be whisked away.

There are two basic types of phytosterols: plant sterols and stanols. Despite their different names, research indicates that there are no significant differences in their health impact on cholesterol when consumed as part of a low-fat diet. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a health claim for plant sterol/stanol esters for reducing the risk of heart disease: “Diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol that include at least 1.3 grams of plant sterol esters or 3.4 grams of plant stanol esters, consumed in two meals with other foods, may reduce the risk of heart disease.”

What Foods Contain Phytosterols?
In general, plant phytosterols are abundant in nuts, seeds, legumes and in plant oils. The richest sources are as follows:

Rice Bran Oil: 322mg/ounce: It has a mild nutty flavor and is a great oil to cook with because it has such a high smoke and is more resistant to oxidation giving it a nice long shelf life. It is an excellent source of vitamin E and contains an antioxidant called gamma-oryzanol, which has been thought to help lower one’s risk for heart disease. In one Japanese study, rice bran oil helped reduce symptoms of hot flashes among women subjects.

Corn oil: 264mg/ounce: Corn oil is one of the most popular cooking oils in the United States, especially in commercial cooking and baking. A double blind placebo controlled human study put men on either a diet containing 30% fat mainly from corn oil or from a sunflower/olive oil blend. Researchers found that the vitamin E content of corn oil did a better job of protecting the DNA of cells from mutating into dangerous cancer cells compared to a diet with sunflower and olive oil.

Sesame seeds/oil: 200-223mg /ounce. Cold-pressed sesame oil is great for deep frying because of its high smoke-point, whereas the dark brown oil is better suited for stir frying or sauces and dressings. Sesame seeds and their oil may have other heart health benefits beyond their phytosterol content. In a small study of hypertensive men who were placed on a daily regimen of a little over an ounce of sesame oil, it was observed that they had better blood flow through their arteries. This was the first study to show that daily intake of sesame oil improves endothelial function and this effect is sustained with long-term daily use.

Canola oil: 188mg/ounce: Canola oil is made from canola seed which belongs to the Brassica family where you’ll find members like cabbage and cauliflower. It contains the lowest level of saturated fats of any vegetable oil and is an excellent source of monounsaturated fatty acids and omega 3 fats, which benefit healthy cholesterol levels. Like corn oil, canola is also a rich source of vitamin E.

Sunflower seeds: 150mg/1/4 cup: Sunflower seeds are an excellent source of magnesium, copper, manganese, selenium, thiamine, and a Vitamin E (almost half of your daily requirements!). These nutrient packed seeds are also a good source of the B vitamins and other trace minerals, not to mention that they are also a great source of protein and fiber. The major phytosterol in sunflower seeds is beta-sitosterol which may benefit prostate and heart health.

Pistachios: 80mg/ounce: Pistachios are one of the oldest nuts in existence and it is estimated that humans have been eating pistachios in one form or another for at least 9,000 years. They are rich in the plant nutrients lutein, beta-carotene and contain a hefty amount of the gamma-tocopherol form of vitamin E. A randomized cross-over controlled Penn State study found that a couple of handfuls of pistachios a day added to a low cholesterol diet lowered LDL cholesterol and boosted heart-healthy antioxidants better than a heart healthy diet alone.

Wheat germ oil: 150mg/ounce: Wheat germ is the oily component of the wheat kernel. The oil contains high amounts of octacosanol, a plant nutrient found in vegetable oils that has been reported to enhance endurance, reaction time, and exercise capacity by increasing oxygen in cells of the body. It has also been associated with reducing cholesterol. A one- tablespoon serving supplies over 100% of the daily value of vitamin E. Wheat germ oil has also been used to treat various skin conditions such as eczema and skin rashes with some success.

Supplement it? Intakes of plant phytosterols/stanols in excess of the recommended 2g/day dose are associated with additional reductions in harmful LDL cholesterol, which may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). The National Cholesterol Education Program recommends adding 2 grams daily of phytosterols to a cholesterol-lowering diet for people who have not been successful in lowering cholesterol by diet alone. In order to achieve this level, fortification of foods such as margarine-type spreads, orange juice, yogurt and yogurt-based drinks and dietary supplements might be necessary, even in addition to the plant sterol-rich foods mentioned above. A 5-week double blinded placebo controlled study demonstrated nearly a 5 percent reduction in “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in participants who had elevated cholesterol levels when a supplement containing approximately 2 grams of plant phytosterols was added to their cholesterol reducing diet.

If you haven’t received the memo yet, we are a far cry from meeting the nutrition and healthy eating objectives of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs), according to studies. The DGA committee identified that many fall short of reaching minimal healthy levels of key nutrients including vitamins A, C, and E, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and fiber. One study showed that less than 5% of adult workers meet dietary fiber recommendations. This may explain why irritable bowel syndrome and sales of laxatives are on the rise.

In my new book, The Best Things You Can Eat, I talk about what foods can help bridge these short-gaps in nutrients. I’m sure this information will be helpful for many of my readers but I’m also a realist. Even those who follow a healthy diet (including myself) or have all the best intentions to do so, don’t always eat perfectly…everyday. That is one of the reasons I included information on dietary supplements in the new book and have always recommended dietary supplements for my patients, family and even myself.

Even if you are on a great supplement program, if you don’t take them, they aren’t going to do you much good. So what are some of the roadblocks to taking supplements? I asked Judy Blatman, senior vice president or communications from the Council of Responsible Nutrition (CRN), for her thoughts on why people either don’t take dietary supplements or why those who do may have a hard time sticking to their regimen. She mentioned that CRN conducted a consumer survey this year that investigated supplement habits of consumers and health professionals alike. “We did ask those who indicated that they didn’t always comply with their daily supplement routine, to select the main reasons why they didn’t,” says Blatman.  The top three answers were: 

1. I get busy and forget to take them
2. If they’re not in plain sight, I forget to take them
3. Some days, I just don’t feel like taking them.

These all make perfect sense to me. Even I forget to take my supplements for all the very same reasons! And to spin off the last reason of “Some days I just don’t feel like taking them”, swallowing huge capsules or tablets are a physical impossibility for me. Have you ever had a tablet or capsule get stuck in your throat? Owww! It’s painful and the most uncomfortable feeling I can possibly imagine. My solution? I chew EVERYTHING! Yup…that includes my fish oil capsules, too! Not pleasant, eh? So, it’s not surprising that even the espousers of dietary supplements don’t always take them if their own advice is literally “hard to swallow”!

Good news. I was approached earlier this year by the folks at Nature Made who clairvoyantly knew of my supplement plight. They were excited to announce that they created new lines of dietary supplements with the sole purpose of making the task of taking supplements doable if not downright pleasurable! I was all ears. Long story short, they sent a variety of products for the whole family to try out that included adult gummies, full strength minis and a new type of small tablets called vita melts that literally melt in your mouth! They were amazing and really solved my swallowing challenge. I liked them so much that I started working with Nature Made to spread the good news! So I thought I’d share what the Grottos are taking as a core program as a result of trying the new products. Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t thow in a bit of advice to seek out a qualified health professional for dietary supplement guidance. Okay? Do it! I also provided links in the photos in case you want to know more about the supplements.

My three daughters, who are all in their teens, take the full strength minis. So does my wife Sharon.

This is my base program. I take the men’s full strength mini’s multiple plus two of the the smaller omega 3 supplement. I also take an additional 1000i.u. of vitamin D in the vita melt series. They taste GREAT!

Lastly, I wanted to share some cool gizmos and apps that address the first two reasons that folks don’t take supplements from the CRN survey.

I forgot:
CRN’s Life Supplemented campaign also designed a cool iphone app that can be used on your ipad as well. Besides reminding you to take your supplements, it eve has a restock reminder to tell you if you are getting low.

They don’t have an android version out yet but rumor has it that there may be one available in 2013. Meanwhile, I ran across another app that works great for android devices.

Having them visible.

“Having your supplements out on your kitchen counter, on your desk, in your pocketbook so they’re visible can really help,” says Blatman.  
Even for those times when your supplements aren’t in a direct line of sight, here’s a great carrier for them that will sounds an alarm when its time to take them. Cool eh?

I hope that helps break down some barriers to taking your supplements regularly. Have you found any supplements, apps or supplement carriers that you would recommend that make taking supplements easier? I’d love to hear from you!

Thank you to my intern, Jamie Digiovanni, who helped me with this story.

1. Kachan D, Lewis JE, Davila EP, Arheart KL, LeBlanc WG, Fleming LE,
Cabán-Martinez AJ, Lee DJ. Nutrient intake and adherence to dietary
recommendations among US workers. J Occup Environ Med. 2012 Jan;54(1):101-5.

2. J Am Coll Nutr February 2009 vol. 28 no. Supplement 1 69S-72S