Monday, September 20, 2010

Iron: “With” or “Without”?

It’s difficult to talk about multivitamins and miss talking about the iron. An essential mineral, iron handles the task of transporting oxygen to the muscles and organs.

There are two forms of dietary iron: heme and non-heme. Heme iron sources include meat, fish and poultry, while iron in non-meat foods is non-heme iron. Non-heme iron is found in a wide variety of foods (beans, lentils, yeast leavened whole grain breads, dried fruits, broccoli, spinach and other leafy greens, strawberries, nuts, and enriched pastas, rice and cereals) but this form of iron is not as well absorbed by our bodies as the heme form.

Interestingly, coupling non-heme iron foods with foods rich in vitamin C boosts the absorption of iron in our bodies to the level close to that of heme iron foods. So, pairing vitamin C rich foods (orange and orange juice, broccoli, grapefruit, strawberries, etc.) can really boost iron absorption. Because heat can destroy vitamin C, we recommend that vitamin C fruits be incorporated raw into salsas and salads, rather than being cooked into a sauce, when iron absorption is a goal.

In an interesting study, scientists measured iron levels after people ate a typical meal of hamburger, string beans and mashed potatoes with various drinks.

Impact of Beverage on Iron Absorption of hamburger, string beans & mashed potato meal
Tea: Reduced iron absorption by 62 percent
Coffee: Reduced iron absorption by 35 percent
Orange Juice: Increased iron absorption by about 85 percent

Researchers report that compounds in tea and coffee affect the non-heme iron found in grains and vegetables, but that heme iron was unaffected. This study suggests that if iron consumption is a concern, we consider our beverage choice when consuming meals low in heme iron, and high in non-heme iron – for example, when having a spinach salad with strawberries, red onions, and almonds for lunch.

If the iron content of our blood falls, we may feel tired or have reduced energy. The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for women 19- to 50 years of age is 18 milligrams (mg) per day, while men ages 19- and older, and women 51 years and older have a requirement of 8 mg per day. The higher RDA for women in their childbearing years is due to blood loss that occurs through the monthly menstrual cycle. In the U.S., about five percent of women, and two percent of men have anemia, caused by a prolonged and severe iron deficiency.

While an iron deficiency is a problem for some, at the other end of the spectrum are those who have too much iron, and too much iron can be toxic. Thankfully, the vast majority of us get enough iron in our diets to maintain appropriate iron levels.

Within the Cooper Complete supplement line, our adult formulations of Cooper Complete and Basic One are both available in “with iron” and “iron free” formulations. The “with iron” formulations contain 18 mg iron. We suggest that women in their childbearing years who have a monthly cycle take a “with iron” product, while men and post-menopausal women select an “iron free” formulation.

To purchase Cooper Complete supplements, visit the Cooper Store.

Effect of different drinks on the absorption of non-heme iron from composite meals.

The Claim: Drinking Tea Can Lower Your Levels of Iron

Jill Turner is VP Operations for Cooper Concepts, the company that markets Cooper Complete nutritional supplements. Email ( or call 972-560-3262 with your questions and comments regarding supplements.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Skinny on Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fats are polyunsaturated fatty acids, the “good fat” found in fish and some plants. Since our body cannot make omega-3 fatty acids, we must get them through food or supplements.

The impact of seafood’s omega-3s on heart health has been widely studied. The long running Nurses’ Health Study (which includes 80,000 women) reported back in 2001 that women eating one to three servings of fish per month cut their risk of heart disease by 20 percent, while eating at least five servings a week lowered heart disease risk by 40 percent. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends we eat fish, particularly fatty fish, at least two times per week. Two to three servings a week of fatty fish (about 8 ounces) leads to an average daily intake of 500 milligrams (mg) of EPA and DHA, which is associated with a lower risk of heart disease.

The AHA suggests that people with documented coronary heart disease (CHD) consume about 1 gram (1,000 mg) of EPA+DHA per day, preferably through fish consumption (which means eating fatty fish four- to five times a week), otherwise in supplement form. Patients who need to lower their triglycerides will need 2 to 4 grams of EPA+DHA per day.

Other research indicates omega-3 fatty acids provide benefits in the treatment of depression, inflammatory bowel disease, and autoimmune disease such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

There are two major types of omega-3 fatty acids in our diets. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are omega-3 fats found in fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, albacore tuna, sardines, and anchovies. Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is the omega-3 fat found in plant foods, mostly seed and nut oils (such as canola, flaxseed and walnuts). Our bodies can convert ALA into EPA and then DHA, so researchers used to assume that eating foods with ALA provided the same benefits seen in eating fish, with its EPA and DHA. Studies now show that humans are relatively inefficient in converting ALA into EPA and DHA. One study reported that boosting ALA to more than 10 times the current average U.S. intake caused only small increases in blood levels of EPA and DHA.

Studies show that EPA is important for optimal brain function and contributes to the reduction of inflammation. DHA has been recognized for brain, visual, and nervous system health and development. EPA and DHA work together to contribute to good heart health.

So, do you need omega-3 supplements? The answer depends upon your diet and overall health. If your heart is healthy, and you’re eating at least two servings of fatty fish every week, you’re probably fine. However, if your diet is fish deficient, or contains fish such as tilapia and catfish which aren’t fatty, then supplements are a good option. You should also consider supplements if you have CHD, elevated triglycerides, depression or inflammation issues.

Grocery, health food stores and discount club shelves are full of “fish oil” and Omega-3 fatty acid products, and like everything else there are more than enough options to quickly overwhelm us. The trick to deciphering all the options so you can compare products “apples to apples” is to go to look on the back of the bottle to the supplement facts portion of the label. Once there, add up the amounts of EPA and DHA documented to be in each serving.

For a comparison of the supplement facts panel and costs between Cooper Complete Advanced Omega-3 and Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega-3, click here.

The average American eats seafood about once every 11 days. If you’re in this category, consciously make a commitment to start eating at least one serving of fatty fish per week. An albacore tuna sandwich at lunch, a perfectly grilled piece of salmon for dinner, or a snack of sardines in tomato sauce atop a couple of saltine crackers are all great ways to incorporate omega-3 EPA and DHA into our diet. Omega-3 supplements are a great way to augment healthy eating habits.

To purchase Advanced Omega-3, visit the Cooper Store.


ISSFAL – fatty acids, lipids and health studies Global Recommendations

Nurses Health Study 2001 report

Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Cooper Complete Advanced Omega-3 ingredient panel and price information

Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega-3 ingredient panel and price information