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Nutrition Supplement: News for Healthy Living

Vitamins minerals and more: Antioxidants, linoleic acid, iron restrictions for infants and zinc to get you through the cold and flu season.
By Monica Emerich and Elizabeth Bertani
July/August 1997
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Potent blueberries

A preliminary U.S. government study shows that blueberries possess greater antioxidant activity than any of forty fruits and vegetables tested. In fact, a little less than two-thirds of a cup of blueberries showed more antioxidant capacity than the generally recommended daily doses of vitamins E or C, according to the study, which was reported in a federal newsletter earlier this year.

Antioxidants defend the body against cell damage caused by oxygen free radicals that can lead to cancer, heart disease, and other illnesses. In the study, blueberries were followed in antioxidant strength by Concord grape juice, strawberries, kale, and spinach.

The study was conducted by the Agricultural Research Service, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and reported in the USDA’s January 1997 issue of Food and Nutrition Research Briefs. Animal studies are now under way to determine if the test-tube results will carry over to humans.

Offsetting the impact of cystic fibrosis

Linoleic acid may reduce the impact of cystic ­fibrosis on infants’ growth rates, according to a ­recent study. Cystic fibrosis, an inherited disease of the exocrine glands that affects the pancreas, sweat glands, and respiratory system, can result in malnutrition and chronic respiratory problems. Linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid found in vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds, helps the body digest and fully ­utilize nutrients.

In the study, seventy-six infants with cystic fibrosis were divided into two groups. For a year, the first group took an infant formula containing 12 percent linoleic acid and the second group took for­mula containing 7 percent linoleic acid. For a year after the babies took the formulas, researchers scored their height and weight by age. At the end of the year, the first group of infants displayed significantly higher height and weight scores than the second group.(1)

Iron warnings

Labels on iron supplements will soon warn adults to keep them away from children. Accidental iron overdose is a leading cause of fatal poisoning in children younger than six years old, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which issued the new labeling requirements. It also ordered that supplements containing more than 30 mg of iron per dose be packaged in single-unit blister packs.

The new rules take effect July 15 for all iron products, according to the National Nutritional Foods Association, a trade association representing the natural products industry. The only products exempt from the rule are those containing carbonyl iron, a type of iron absorbed more slowly by the body and so, manufacturers claim, less toxic. The FDA has extended the labeling deadline for this type of iron to January 1998 while waiting for manufacturers to prove the claim.

Good news for the cold season

Zinc made headlines last winter as an effective weapon in the war against colds. One study behind the news shows that zinc is an effective remedy, ­although researchers don’t know how it works.

According to the study, cold symptoms in patients using zinc lozenges disappeared within an average of 4.4 days, compared with 7.6 days for patients who used lozenges without zinc. Coughing stopped completely in 2 days for the zinc group, compared with 4.5 days for the placebo group, and nasal drainage stopped after 4 days in the zinc group, compared with 7 days for the other group.

The time it took to eliminate fevers, muscle aches, scratchy throats, and sneezing didn’t differ significantly between the two groups. Researchers also reported that more patients using zinc lozenges experienced nausea and an unpleasant taste than those using lozenges without zinc.

The results were based on a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study in 1996 of one hundred people with cold symptoms. Half the group took one lozenge containing 13.3 mg of zinc every two hours while awake for as long as they were ill. The other half used lozenges without zinc. Researchers measured the patients’ symptoms daily, including coughing, headaches, hoarseness, muscle aches, nasal drainage, nasal congestion, scratchy or sore throat, sneezing, and fever.

Although researchers didn’t identify how zinc worked, they concluded that it significantly reduced the duration of common cold symptoms. The body needs the mineral zinc in trace amounts to promote growth, preserve the senses of taste and smell, help wounds heal, and regulate the amount of vitamin A in the blood. (2) 


“Nutrition Supplement: Vitamins, minerals, and more” is offered as a bimonthly supplement to Herbs for Health and is written by Monica Emerich and Elizabeth Bertani of Natural Information, 2888 Bluff Street, Suite 301, Boulder, Colorado, 80301. Design by Bren Frisch. “Nutrition Supplement” is offered as an educational service, not a source of medical advice or guide for self-medication. Please consult a qualified health-care professional for treatment of any serious health problems.  


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