On Nutrition by Ed Blonz

Are My Dried Blueberries Worthless?

DEAR DR. BLONZ: My question is about blueberries -- dried blueberries, in particular. I spent a pretty penny for dried blueberries to put on my cereal every morning until a friend told me that dried berries have no antioxidant value. Can you comment on this? And what about the antioxidant value of frozen berries? -- R.L., Berkeley, California

DEAR R.L.: Dried blueberries -- and other dried berries, such as cranberries, currants and cherries -- are great, and they have considerable nutritional and antioxidant value. I don’t know where your friend got their information, but I would consider carefully any other recommendations you get from that source.

FYI, I rotate among different types of berries to add to my cereal every morning. In season, I use fresh fruit, but off-season, I use frozen or dried. It’s a great way to start the day.

DEAR DR. BLONZ: I have read that shark cartilage can be effective against cancer, but my doctor had never heard of this and was cynical. I see it for sale at many vitamin stores, so I wonder why it is being offered. Are you aware of any evidence that shows that this works? If so, how much is needed? -- S.G., Phoenix

DEAR S.G.: I share the skepticism of your doctor. Please do not consider the presence of a health product at a store as evidence of its efficacy.

Shark cartilage gained fad fame as an anti-cancer compound because it was advertised to contain something unique that could prevent the development and spread of any cancer. The hypothetical mechanism was a substance in the cartilage that inhibited new blood vessels’ creation -- a process integral to cancer cells’ growth and spread. The evidence for all this is severely lacking. As support, shark cartilage proponents cite the fact that sharks do not develop cancer, but this has also been refuted.

While there is no evidence that it is harmful to take, please consider the insidious harm wrought by delay. Many early-stage cancers can be treated, but opting for a bogus remedy can give cancer a chance to grow -- and even to spread to the point where more aggressive treatments are required. At that point, the odds for success can suffer.

DEAR DR. BLONZ: What is the difference between pasteurization and ultra-pasteurization of dairy products? -- D.C., Lombard, Illinois

DEAR D.C.: Pasteurization and ultra-pasteurization are heat treatments designed to reduce the presence of potentially harmful microorganisms. The two differ in the amount and duration of heat used. Pasteurization heats a dairy product to 161 degrees (all temperatures Fahrenheit) for 15 seconds, while ultra-pasteurization heats the product to 280 degrees for up to 3 seconds. Immediately after either heat treatment, the milk gets rapidly chilled to 39 degrees.

The higher heat used in ultra-pasteurization results in a more shelf-stable product, which means it will have a longer shelf life. The product label will indicate which method was used. Neither process sterilizes the product, so once opened, both require refrigeration and will last about seven to 10 days.

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.