On Nutrition by Ed Blonz

Wheatgrass Can’t Replace Healthy Lifestyle

DEAR DR. BLONZ: I am not very active and do not eat enough fruits and vegetables, so I have tried taking a powdered wheatgrass supplement product for a few months to cover my bases. Is this the best thing to take as a fix for my situation? -- S.T., Casa Grande, Arizona

DEAR S.T.: The product you are referring to is a powder made from dehydrated wheatgrass. It, and other products like it, supplies a modicum of nutrients and a bevy of healthful phytochemicals.

Aside from testimonials, there is little peer-reviewed scientific evidence to support any health benefits to such a supplement. As would be expected, it has a “grassy” taste, but it certainly won’t hurt you. Assuming the company follows good manufacturing processes, I have no problem with dehydrated greens or other such dried-food dietary supplements. The only people who need to be cautious are those with wheat or grass-related allergies.

That being said, such supplements should not be thought of as a substitute for good eating. You need to rethink your complacency with the “I do not eat enough produce” stance. I would guess that you already know that healthful foods, along with regular physical activity, are the way to go. It is not that hard to get on track; it’s all a matter of priorities. Consider it an investment -- one with a science-grounded, long-term payoff you will realize as the years pass.

Pardon the blatant sermonizing, but a wheatgrass supplement is not a fix. The effects of our day-to-day decisions are often subtle and unnoticed, whether beneficial or negative. Chronic diseases, such as heart disease and certain cancers, are cumulative affairs; the manifestations don’t come to the fore until the disease process has been ongoing for years, if not decades. Taking care of yourself increases the odds that your body will be better able to fend off ill health and chronic ailments.

Put simply, there is no evidence that wheatgrass, or any other supplement, would be sufficient to counter the tide of an ongoing unhealthful diet and lifestyle.

DEAR DR. BLONZ: I was hoping to get your opinion on the safety of drinking Kava, a brand of “acid-neutralized” instant coffee. I read mixed safety reviews online. -- D.K.

DEAR D.K.: The information you found on the internet was likely a mix of details about the coffee brand (Kava) and a similarly named tropical herb (kava, or kava-kava). The herb, scientific name Piper methysticum, is associated with liver damage.

I know of nothing wrong with, or dangerous about, the reduced-acid Kava coffee. In this product, the acid normally present in coffee is neutralized by a potassium compound (potassium hydroxide), so it will contain more potassium than regular coffees. Those who need to avoid too much potassium would therefore be wise to rethink this brand, but that is about the only issue.

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.