On Nutrition by Ed Blonz

Teens Consuming Synthetic Version of Periwinkle Byproduct

DEAR DR. BLONZ: I am a trainer in San Diego and have heard about an herb that teenagers are ingesting. What are your thoughts on vinpocetine? One website touts that it is in the PDR (Physicians’ Desk Reference) and seemingly safe. But I am worried about anyone, especially teens, using this substance. -- S.T., San Diego

DEAR S.T.: First off, why would teenagers be taking this stuff? Secondly, being in the PDR only means that someone has paid the money to have it listed; it does not equate with effectiveness.

Vinpocetine is a synthetic derivative of a vincamine, a chemical found in the periwinkle plant. Naturally occurring vincamine has a short half-life, but the synthetically derived vinpocetine does not. Work done to date is quite preliminary, but the fact that vinpocetine is synthetic means that it should not even be in a dietary supplement. It’s unclear why the Food and Drug Administration hasn’t taken action.

As a drug, vinpocetine may have an ability to enhance blood flow in situations where there is already a reduced blood flow, such as after a stroke or another type of vascular impairment. To date, all we have is some sketchy evidence from stroke victims, or studies in which a memory inhibitor is given, and then vinpocetine is administered to see if it can counteract the inhibitor.

Use by teenagers or young adults is definitely ill-advised, as there is no information on long-term effects. There is also a paucity of information on potential interactions with medications and unknown impacts on memory development in the young adult brain -- not something you want to roll the dice on.

DEAR DR. BLONZ: To forever snuff out a discussion I am having with a neighbor, please discuss urine therapy. In particular, she is convinced that drinking her own urine is what contributes to her beautiful skin. She has several books claiming this to be a legitimate treatment, but my understanding is that urine is a waste product and should be eliminated by the kidneys. -- R.B.

DEAR R.B.: Here’s hoping you can find a neighborly way

to say, “yuck.”

You are correct that urine is a waste product. It is mostly water, but also contains substances that the body is purposefully eliminating in its attempts to maintain balance. Urine will also contain breakdown products from hormones, metabolic waste products, drugs, toxins and other foreign substances. Urine is also one route by which the byproducts of bacterial infections are shown the door; as such, ingesting it is a risk for anyone suffering from an infection.

I also found some mention of the idea of cosmetic benefits from drinking or washing with urine. But finding it mentioned doesn’t make it true. I could find no objective evidence in support of the idea.

Let us say, for the sake of argument, that there is some unidentified beneficial element in urine. Consider that when you consume the whole recipe, along with that good element, you get the bad and the ugly. You are also creating an additional burden on your system, as it all has to pass through and find its way out again, taking more of the body’s water as it heads out the door.

This is definitely a circumstance where a flush is the wining hand.

For a more detailed discussion, see b.link/urine84.

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.