Sam Bauman: Here’s some honesty about supplements

As we seniors amble along, we can’t help but notice changes. Our waists expand, we get bags under the eyes, we tend to enjoy afternoon naps and we look for ways to stay young. We know a healthy diet and plenty of exercise will help, but there are always entrepreneurs who say they want to help us as they help themselves to our retirement funds.

Nonprofit Consumer Reports on Health last year looked over some popular “youth-helping” products. I’ll boil down what the publication said.

Claim: An infusion of vitamins in high doses makes you feel younger. Loading the body with concentrated vitamins in the bloodstream helps; if some is good, more is better.

Researchers at Yale sought out to see if weekly doses of vitamins and minerals would lessen symptoms of fibromyalgia. They did, but no more than for others who took a placebo.

Claim: DHEA supplements prevent illness and improve energy.

Lots of DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is out there on drugstore shelves, but the body already produces this hormone. DHEA levels begin to decline at about age 30, the same time age-related changes such as loss of muscle mass, thinner bones and mental weaknesses start to come up.

A 2006 Mayo Clinic study showed use of DHEA didn’t really slow aging. There was no difference in body composition, physical performance, insulin sensitivity and quality of life between those who took it and those who didn’t.

(Incidentally, Congress years ago barred the FDA from ruling on supplements. One for the industry, zero for us.)

Claim: Omega-3 supplements slow the effects of aging.

Yes, omega-3 fatty acids can help fight heart disease, arthritis and other diseases. But aging?

An Ohio State study said it my help preserve telomeres — DNA segments that protect cells.

OSU scientists found that overweight but otherwise healthy middle-aged people who took omega-3 for four months altered the fatty acids to preserve telomeres. It’s the first supplement that might actually make a differed in aging.

Claim: Red wine will help you live longer.

It’s not the wine, but the resveratrol in the skin of the grapes that has been claimed to lengthen life. Research suggests that resveratrol mimics the effects of calorie reduction, which has been found to extend lives of lab animals.

Claim: Catalase pills will get rid of gray hair.

As we age, the production of catalase slows down, important because hair cells produce hydrogen peroxide. A study in a medical journal didn’t prove that taking catalase in pill form stops hair from turning gray.

Don’t pass the salt

A newsletter notes that most Americans use too much salt — 3,400 milligrams a day. That’s about a teaspoon and a half.

Dr. Marvin Lipman says people should reduce that to 2,300 milligrams a day. Particularly in danger are those who salt every meal even before tasting the food.

Cutting back on salt can help lower blood pressure, a marker for cardio disease.

“But they also suggest that lowering sodium intake too much may actually increase risk of some health problems,” said Brian L. Strum, vice dean of the medical school of the University of Pennsylvania.

To reduce sodium intake, eat less pizza, bread and processed food. You can track daily sodium on a free app, MyFitnessPal.

For me, please, just pass the pepper and forget the sodium.

Sam Bauman writes about senior issues for the Nevada Appeal.


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