On Nutrition by Ed Blonz

Supplement Makes Near-Miraculous Absorption Claim

DEAR DR. BLONZ: I’m taking vitamin and mineral supplements in an isotonic form, because it is a more efficient delivery system. They go through the stomach and right to the small intestine, thereby allowing close to 95% absorption, due to not being diluted by stomach acids. This also speeds up entry into the circulatory system, occurring within five to 15 minutes, as opposed to the average four hours or more than a pill or capsule form does. What are your thoughts on this? -- C.G. San Diego, California

DEAR C.G.: Those statements read like they were taken directly from the product promotion. Ninety-five percent absorption for all the nutrients? Ridiculous, unless the product is only water. What the body absorbs of the different nutrients varies greatly, and will also be influenced by whether there is a deficiency or a sufficiency at the time. With many nutrients, only a small fraction is absorbed even under the best of conditions. Dietary allowance takes into account each nutrient’s typical efficiency of absorption.

You say “a more efficient delivery system,” but as a consumer, I would demand evidence to support this and their “95%” claim. Unclear if you will get any meaningful response. Pills and capsules (assuming they dissolve), or powders, work just fine.

Remember that food must be the first priority, but if you are going to take a vitamin and mineral supplement, it’s best, as a general rule, to take it at mealtime. Post-meal digestion and absorption processes are designed to get the good stuff out of our foods by keeping the mass of food churning and in contact with the absorptive surfaces for extended periods.

DEAR DR. BLONZ: What makes peanut butter dangerous? I was confused when I saw it on a list of items that could add to the risk of death. -- S.Q. Berkeley, California

DEAR S.Q.: The idea that peanut butter is a risk factor stems from the possible presence of a cancer-causing substance called aflatoxin that can attack the liver.

Aflatoxin is produced by a mold that can grow on peanuts and other grains. There are specific controls and inspections designed to prevent such contamination, keeping contaminated peanuts from getting into peanut butter. On rare occasions, contaminated peanuts have gotten past checkpoints. This can happen, but it tends to be more of a problem in developing countries than the U.S. The major brands of peanut butter have an excellent record for keeping aflatoxin out of their products. Conceivably, there might be a greater risk in warm, moist climates with in-store peanut grinding where nuts sit for a while. Following this logic, one might consider opting to make such purchases in stores that sell a lot of fresh-ground butter and keep their machinery clean.

Peanuts are a healthful food with a variety of nutrients. Whether packaged or sold in bulk, they represent a better choice than french fries, chips, candy, cookies, pastries and the like. The group that needs to be on guard are those allergic to peanuts. While many childhood food allergies tend to abate as one enters adulthood, peanut allergies tend to persist, although science is working on strategies to change this. At present, those who suffer from a peanut allergy must be ever vigilant.

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.