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Nutrition Newsletter January 2014


Our Nutritionist Anna Collins has focussed on weight this month and also discusses if Multivitamins are a waste of money.
  • Get (or keep yourself) lean by eating fats, not carbs 
  • Multivitamins: life savers or waste of money


Lose your fat phobia - and the festive flab!! 

Low fat diets have long been touted as a good way to lose weight.  Conventional wisdom used to be that if you just ate fewer calories and exercised more you would lose weight.  This can help but it isn't the full story.  The evidence keeps mounting that the TYPES of fat you eat are far more important than the overall amount. 
Over the last 25 years our consumption of fat has gone down but our weight has skyrocketed.  So too has our intake of high carbohydrate foods.  A high carbohydrate food is one that contains mainly sugars, whether natural, or refined.  Bread, pasta, potatoes, sugar, honey and dried fruit are all high in sugars, with the refined versions (white bread, white pasta) lacking essential nutrients and fibre too.  But you need to keep an eye on the unrefined carbohydrates too.  If you’d like to lose a few pounds this January, making sure you limit starchy foods to 50% or less of your breakfast, 25% or less of your lunch, and ideally no starchy foods at your evening meal. 
Eating good fats from oily fish, moderate amounts of nuts and seeds and virgin raw oils will help you keep fuller longer and also help you lose weight!!  To lose weight, the easiest, most satisfying way is to eat a variety of beneficial fats, only small amounts of starchy foods (such as root veg and wholegrains), plenty of low-carb (non-root) veggies and no more than 3-4 servings of low-sugar fresh fruit a day.  

Multivitamins: life savers or waste of money?

An article in Irish Times Health supplement last week reports on an editorial in  the Annals of internal Medicine,claiming that vitamin and mineral supplements are a waste of money.  This is at odds with much high quality research showing clear benefits.  For example  the recent German study of over 23,000 people, shows that multivitamins help us live longer. Read the study .  I decided to dig a bit deeper into the damning editorial. Here’s what I found:  

1. The researchers looked at thousands of study abstracts but their selection criteria excluded all but 27 studies.  Why? All studies using "high" doses of vitamins and minerals were dropped.   High doses were defined as above the recommended daily allowance (RDA).  The RDA is a level that, if you go below, it, causes an overt deficiency disease.  For example, the RDA of vitamin C in the USA is 90mg for a man.  Eating less vitamin C than this causes scurvy (which causes fatigue, low mood, joint pains and gum recession).  However, research is unequivocal that 90mg is not enough to optimise your health and prevent other diseases.   With vitamin D, the RDA is 400iu, but science confirms again and again that people living in Northern latitudes need 1,000-2,000iu a day to help them avoid a high risk of osteoporosis or bowel cancer.  To understand the difference between the RDA and the optimal intake Read here

2. The negative studies used synthetic, low grade vitamins and minerals.  For example, dl-alpha-tocopheroI is a synthetic vitamin E with no health benefits.  Even the natural form of tocopherol (the d-alpha form) is not useful on its own, without the gamma tocopherol form.  None of the negative studies used a balance of the different natural forms of vitamin E.  I constantly stress to my patients the difference between the quality and quantity of minerals and vitamins in a Boots or Centrum supplement compared to a Biocare or Solgar one.  If funds are tight it’s better to spend money on a high quality supplement and take it less often than to waste all your money by taking a cheap and useless supplement every day.  

3. In the cardiovascular study, 46% of the participants didn’t take the supplements!  Also, in the studies, no questions were asked about other supplement use by the participants.  That is to say, if you were on placebo or multivitamin, you could take whatever supplements you wanted alongside.  This compromised the data to put it mildly.

4. As I mentioned, the negative studies cited in the editorial use synthetic, low grade supplements.  Some are manufactured by companies owned by pharmaceutical manufacturers (eg. Bayer and BSF).  The Annals of Internal Medicine is funded by pharmaceutical companies.  Could it be a co-incidence that all the studies quoted in this periodical are negative.      

There’s still no credible data overturning the benefits to taking multivitamins and minerals in a balanced, high quality formulation.   If you take medication or have a health condition, consult a naturopath or nutritionist first.  



For an appointment with Anna please contact the Littlejohn Centre on 01-4560300 or if you would like to subscribe to Anna's newsletter please see


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