On Nutrition

DEAR DR. BLONZ: I have been having wheatgrass at my local juice place. I was encouraged by a pamphlet claiming that two one-ounce shots provide my daily recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables. While I don’t want to waste my money, I do enjoy the idea of this type of super-healthy boost in one swallow, as I am not very good at eating my fruits and veggies. -- G.O., San Jose, California

DEAR G.O.: Wheatgrass is a young growing plant -- in this case, a type of grass. A typical serving of wheatgrass juice will contain less than a gram of protein, some vitamins and minerals, and a variety of phytochemicals essential for the growth and survival of this young plant. Wheatgrass, like other plants, contains chlorophyll, the green pigment that has an ability to capture the radiant energy of the sun and convert it into chemical energy through the process of photosynthesis. There is no known requirement for chlorophyll in humans.

I have tasted wheatgrass juice on various occasions, and can report that it does indeed taste like grass. While some may find it to be an acquired taste, there is nothing inherently wrong with it as a food. But it falls short of being a health-giving miracle food. Objective estimations point to it being nothing more than the product of young grass put into a juicing machine.

Two ounces of a wheatgrass extract does not equate with five servings of fruits and vegetables. It would probably be closer to a large spinach salad -- and there is nothing wrong with that.

As to whether you are wasting your money, that’s one you will have to answer. There are plenty of healthful foods around. Stick to the logic that our interests are best served when we include a variety of wholesome foods in our diet, rather than looking for a convenient way to get them all from one source, or in one swallow.

DEAR DR. BLONZ: Does taking carnitine as a dietary supplement help with weight loss? -- D.H., Reno, Nevada

DEAR D.H.: Carnitine is involved in energy production, being integral to the transport of fat into the structures of the cell (the mitochondria) where energy gets produced. For a short time, carnitine was thought to be essential, and was given the name vitamin B7. This was discontinued once it was realized that, in healthy children and adults, the liver and kidneys make carnitine as needed.

There are scenarios -- including a genetic predisposition, certain health conditions (some involving the kidneys), and the use of certain medications -- where carnitine can end up in short supply, but these are exceptional circumstances. Don’t count on carnitine to help stoke your fat-burning furnace, as some product promotions might have you believe. You will, however, lose some weight from your wallet.

The National Institutes of Health has more on carnitine at tinyurl.com/yb5b5cxj.

Send questions to: “On Nutrition,” Ed Blonz, c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, 64106. Send email inquiries to questions@blonz.com. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.

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