Iodine Refs

April 19, 2008

Just go to the Medical Journal of Australia and type iodine in the search box. Most of the papers are freely available. The National Iodine Nutrition Study is the largest study. A good review paper on iodine and IQ is at

Why Beta-carotene & Vitamins C & E are potentially harmful

April 19, 2008

A C E supplements are potentially harmful.

According to the late Victor Herbert Vitamin C and Vitamin E and betacarotene are failures as supplements. Antioxidants don’t necessarily stop free radicals as the most potent free radical generator is iron- a reductant not an oxidant!. Vitamin C recharges Fe3+ back to Fe2+ which can then release another electron. This explains the poor performance of C in trials. Also C enhances digestion of iron and thus severely aggravates haemochromatosis which is an archetypal oxidative stress disease. If you are one of the large portion (about 10% of White and African populations) of the population who are a carrier for a haemochromatosis gene then Herbert indicates the Vitamin C dosages over 75mg per day will increase iron absorption to the same amount as being a full sufferer of haemochromatosis (homozygote with 2 haemochromatosis genes not one). Perhaps Vitamin C supplements over 75mg should carry a warning or be on prescription only!!!!!

Vitamin E is alpha tocopherol and there are several other tocopherols- of which gamma-tocopherol is probably the most important. Take Vitamin E and you won’t absorb your dietary gamma tocopherol and you will end up worse off than before! (Herbert)

Similarly beta carotene is one of hundreds of carotenes. Beta carotene stops you from absorbing the others. Hence beta carotene tablets increase lung cancer in smokers. In contrast dietary carotenes reduce lung cancer. Therefore diet derived beta carotenes statistically correlate strongly with less lung cancer- hence the trial of supplements which had the opposite effect to diet derived carotenes. A classical case of what happens when we combine overuse of inference- cause and effect had not been demonstrated. (Herbert)

I can’t find any body of evidence to show that CoEnzyme Q10 or alpha lipoic acid are harmful. Personally I recommend taking a wide variety of fruit and vegetables, and root vegetables (Red sweet potatoes, turnips, swedes).

Nobody has researched the antioxidant capacity of root vegetables, last I looked, and this is probably because turnips aren’t glamorous.

Also note that bilirubin is a major antioxidant, possibly one of the most important. Many people have genetically high bilirubin (Gilbert’s syndrome) and this may give them some protection. The only paper I found on heart disease showed a significant reduction with Gilberts, but probably needs more research.

On the other hand Folic acid, B12 and B6 seem very benefical except for one silly trial that involved intravenous B12 loading dosage.

One of the best references I found on free radicals & oxidative stress is
McCord J The evolution of free radicals and oxidative stress. Am J Med. 2000 Jun 1;108(8):652-9.
This was an introduction to a series of about 6 articles which are very high powered covering various organ systems etc. You can follow up other editions of the journal for the few weeks after to get the papers (online via academic subscription). The others are mainly by different authors.
McCord & Fridovich discovered superoxide dismutase (SOD) in the 60’s so he’s one of the leading authorities. Much antioxidant power is enzyme derived and SOD is the classic.

Of course, Paleolithic Diets are so rich in vitamins A C and E that there is no point in supplementing them anyway!

Ben Balzer

Brain nutrition overview links

April 19, 2008

Brain growth is limited by the availability of critical nutrients, not just kJ. Omega 3 and iodine are critical. See Steve Cunnane’s paper at from the Ghent symposium ( a symposium which mainly focuses on the aquatic ape hypothesis).

The Real Origins of Diseases- Mainly Nutritional?

April 19, 2008

The germ theory of disease is medicine’s main success area. It lead to immunisation and antibiotics. Besides infections, which diseases do we know the true origin of?

Infective, traumatic, toxic and a handful of the population have significant genetic disorders.
These are the only ones we can prevent and we have good methods of treating. We can also treat deficiencies and surgeons can treat regional complaints (eg kidney stones, appendicitis, gallstones- but as we do not know the cause we can’t prevent them).

This is the true irrationality of health- medicine is in such a primitive state that it only knows the origin of about 15% of disease! If that. We don’t know the true origin of cancer, arthritis, asthma, gallstones, kidney stones, appendicitis, diabetes type 1, autism. Much money is used looking for genetic origins, yet it is unlikely they will be found.

Actually I think they are all primarily nutritional in origin- that’s why I’m interested in nutrition!

Ben Balzer

Australian Schooling System is a major cause of the obesity epidemic

April 19, 2008

I’ll throw in my 2 cents and lay a huge portion of the blame on the school system. The school system (generally) rewards inactivity and provides no reward for activity. There is a solution.

Consider that selective school exams at end of year 4 and 6 are purely academic. In general, no consideration or acknowledgement for sport, dance, music, drama, or any other activity. Similarly for year 12 HSC (NSW at least). The students who haven’t dropped sport generally do so in year 11 or 12. They see it as a threat to their HSC performance and TER and might miss out on their course or university of choice. (Of course for elite athletes there are TER bonuses etc, but I’m looking at the kids in the middle). At the end of the HSC the top TER’s have a lot of kids who have sacrificed a lot, including their fitness to get there. Many have been in coaching colleges from year 4 all the way through. It leaves little time for sport dance music or any other activity. I worry that some of the kids outside our local coaching college look a bit stressed if not traumatised. No wonder some of them seem to have great marks and no communication skills. There are attempts to address this by other tests like the UMAT but it does not address the problem that sport has been dumped.

In NSW at least dropping sport for the HSC is thus almost inevitable. I view the HSC as being like an old car that has had too many accidents, too many repairs.

An alternative curriculum like the International Baccalaureate which is a designed system, is a much better alternative. Sport is compulsory, as is some community service, a language, theory of knowledge and recognition of culture etc. Overall it seems a very superior system. And certainly will produce a fitter healthier student, and hopefully one with a more rounded education. Dare I say a Renaissance person. The IB is available for senior school, middle school and junior school.

Some countries have adopted the IB for all levels of all their schools. It is growing rapidly. Queensland and Victoria have apparently looked at moving their government schools to IB.

I think that education is a nation’s greatest investment. Much of Australia’s current ongoing boom can be traced to the brain explosion of free then affordable universities introduced in 1972 by Whitlam. This got the best people into the hardest courses and we all benefit, even if it has gone of the rails a bit. I hope the 2020 conference looks firmly at providing the best education system for the nation’s future, and one in which sport and recreation has a firm role.

Ben Balzer

Phenotype- It’s all important

April 19, 2008

We need to jump away from the common mind set that confuses PHENOTYPE with GENOTYPE. Phenotype is what “we get” and what actually matters. The phenotype is the “final product” that we get to see, whether it be height, weight, strength, blood pressure, cholesterol, heart disease, cancer, depression or any other feature of the organism. Genotype is the architect’s plans which usually have some differences from the building itself.

The phenotype is like the final building, the genotype like the architect’s plans, the diet like the building materials and exercise like the workmanship. Anyone who has built or renovated a house knows that mistakes in the plans (genes) are fairly uncommon compared to cheap substitute materials (poor diet) and poor workmanship (lack of exercise). We have a few genetic diseases, then a lot of gene nutrient/diet interaction diseases, then a great mass of straight out dietary diseases.

I say this because as a doctor, I think most doctors behaviour indicates that they confuse phenotype with genotype. This mindset causes a fatalism that thinks that no treatment is worthwhile other than a drug. Personally I think that variations in diet and exercise have a greater influence on variations in phenotype than do variations in genotype. Which is why I am interested in nutrition- if the previous sentence were not true, then there would be no point in studying nutrition or exercise. There would be no point in the 18,000 diet books on Amazon. But I think people’s instincts are correct, that diet does have a profound influence on health. And we can change our diet but not our genes. And we have to eat, so why not improve our health as we do it?

Even though the sentence in bold is somewhat philosophical, I hope it is not too confusing. Jerome Groopman wrote a nice book “How Doctors Think” or don’t think, or have a herd mentality like everyone else might be better titles. How we model health is profoundly important, the better our model, the better we perform. Imagine treating pneumonia before we knew about bacteria- this is a good illustration of how the correct model transforms everything.

This is Simopoulos’ Hippocratic model This expands the bio-psycho-social model to add spiritual.

I use a slightly more detailed model… You can pop in sunlight, gravity and any other attribute you wish under environmental or social. Spiritual should be a separate category but I didn’t put it in then. I’d probably also add education, government and a couple of others, Any suggestions?
Phenotype Interactions

Ben Balzer

Hello world!

October 30, 2007

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