The Goldilocks Effect

Dose rates are often the key to performance when supplementing plants, animals and humans. Too much or too little can be equally ineffective or counterproductive. The art of nutrition management involves getting it "just right", much like the unfortunate porridge sampling in the home of the three bears.

Getting it "Just Right"

The Goldilocks effect is most important when attempting to address your own health. It is so common to see people using inappropriate dose rates and allowing insufficient time to enable them to accurately evaluate a supplement. Omega-3 fatty acids are a prime example. There are many that argue that this is the single most important of all supplements, as omega-3 is a prime building block in the anti-inflammatory (healing) stage of the inflammatory cascade. There is a direct link between inflammation and most of the degenerative diseases plaguing Western society. Our omega-6 to omega-3 ratio should be just 2:1, but in Australia it is 20:1. Omega-6 fatty acids are the building blocks for the inflammatory response and in the absence of sufficient omega-3, the imbalance promotes an inevitable increase in inflammation. The question becomes, "how much omega-3 will do the job?”. Many people pop a couple of fish oil capsules two or three times a week and think that the job is done. This is most definitely not the case! The most effective way to supplement omega-3 is with cod liver oil at two tablespoons a day. This supplies sufficient omega-3 along with therapeutic levels of vitamin A and luxury levels of the all-important vitamin D, to supply the body's requirements.

Interestingly, Australia's longest living man, who died recently at the age of 110, attributed his longevity to two tablespoons of cod liver oil each day and he may well have been right. Two tablespoons is equivalent to 30 grams a day. Fish oil capsules usually involve one gram of oil per capsule so a couple of capsules three times per week deliver a weekly dose of just 6 grams. This is a drop in the ocean when we consider that 14 tablespoons of cod liver oil per week delivers 210 grams (35 times more). If you ever wondered what omega-3 fatty acids can do for your skin, your arteries and your inflammation, then try using the optimum dose rate for a few weeks and you may be pleasantly surprised.

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The H Factor

Homocysteine is an amino acid produced by the body and used for a variety of functions. When it has been fully utilised, it is recycled and parts are excreted while some components are reused. This recycling process involves a process called methylation, which in turn, involves nutrients called methyl donors. If you are deficient in methyl donors, the depleted homocysteine cannot be recycled and it turns into a vicious free radical that attacks both arteries and organs and has been recently linked to neurological disorders. Homocysteine levels are a more accurate indicator of potential heart problems than cholesterol levels. The problem here is that it is estimated that over 50% of us have excessive levels of this free radical and most of us are never tested for it.

Following my interview with leading South African heart specialist, Professor Willem Serfontein, I was interested in checking my own homocysteine levels for the first time. The professor had informed me that, regardless of the suggested guidelines recommended by ill-informed medicos, it was desirable to maintain homocysteine levels below seven. My tests revealed levels of 17 so I decided to urgently address this issue. The methyl donors that remove destructive homocysteine from the equation are three simple B vitamins. They include vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and folic acid. The question then became "how much is required to reduce the dangerous levels and how long should I supplement?". I researched the nutrients involved and began supplementing at luxury levels in the hope of fast tracking the removal of the free radical. I dosed myself with 1000 mcg of vitamin B12, 1000 mcg of folic acid and 100 mg of vitamin B6 twice a day, and a took a B group complex with each dose as B vitamins require other B group vitamins as synergists to perform well. I was taking four high-strength tablets twice a day and I assumed that it might take 3 or 4 weeks to reduce my homocysteine levels down to the desirable level. I had my blood tested regularly and after six months of this intensive supplementing regime my homocysteine levels had dropped from 17 down to 9 (still short of the desirable level of 7). The message here is that it takes several years to create a metabolic imbalance on this scale and it cannot be corrected overnight.

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Optimal Dose Rates for Key Nutrients

It is important to note here that the concept of minimum daily requirements has nothing to do with optimal nutrient levels for vibrant wellness. RDA levels are about minimum nutrient requirements needed to avoid deficiency disorders like scurvy (vitamin C) or rickets (calcium). Dr Linus Pauling recognised this phenomenon in relation to vitamin C and he suggested that supplementing with just 250 mg of vitamin C a day was like trying to hold back an ocean with a mudwall. In a world with 74,000 registered chemicals and countless other toxins you could peel oranges until your wrists seize and still not access sufficient vitamin C. Vitamin C is the workhorse of the detox system and most of us should be supplementing for optimum wellness. The optimum suggested rate of vitamin C is 3000 mg per day in three split doses of 1000 mg taken with each meal. If you are battling cancer then that rate increases to 10,000 mg per day involving three doses of 3,350 mg per dose with each meal.

For many years selenium was only available at a strength of 25 mcg in Australia despite ample evidence that eight times that rate (200 mcg) was the minimum daily requirement for therapeutic effect. Currently this nutrient is available at 100 mcg per capsule, so two capsules a day are required. Once again, the daily requirement increases in the face of a degenerative disease like cancer. Up to 600 mcg of selenium are now commonly recommended in these cases. Selenium can become toxic if daily dose rates exceed 1000 mcg. Vitamin D3 is best supplemented at 4000 IU a day (ten times the RDA). Vitamin E is best dosed at 400 IU a day (8 times more than the RDA of 50 IU) and it is three time more effective when used in natural rather than synthetic form. Boron and copper, both useful in the management of arthritis and effective at 3 mg per day and the master mineral, magnesium, involves optimum dose rates of 600 mg per day.

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Time is a Healer

It takes longer to see a response with natural supplements in comparison to drugs. There is research, for example that shows that Valerian is as effective as Valium in the management of stress. However, the Valerian takes three weeks to kick in. In this fast food world, many people suffering anxiety want immediate results. They try the herbal solution for a week, decide it doesn't work and then return to Valium or anti-depressants with all of their issues of side effects and addiction.

Similarly, anti-inflammatory herbs are not renowned for their immediate kick in. It can sometimes take up to two months to see evidence of a change, so ibuprofen seems an easier solution, despite its proven negative effect upon the digestive tract. Krill oil is a wonderful supplement but the effects are only seen after three months of supplementing. Patience is indeed a virtue when it comes to management of your own health; if you weigh up the pros and cons of short term symptom treatment with long term consequences vs slow effective healing, there really should be no choice.

Disclaimer: Professional medical advice should be sought prior to taking any additional supplements.

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