By: Jim Goetz
Listening to a very popular biohacking podcast each week, I hear the host talking about his, "extremely expensive urine". What he is eluding to is the amount of vitamins, minerals, herbs and the like are not being absorbed into his body and therefore being excreted out in his urine.
Why would anyone wish to do this? Why would one want to take their hard earned money and simply waste it? Personally, this author has no idea. Take a look at 95% of people who have a gym membership. They pay for their membership each month. Whether they show up or not is another story. The same concept goes with supplements. Many people fall prey to phenomenal marketing or stories written stating some vitamin provides a miracle cure. In looking for this "silver bullet" (there is none), people take too many vitamins and the youthful are no better than the elderly who take over a dozen pills each day. (One pill for x, another pill to counteract the side effects of that pill, and so forth).
Each year, countless hopeful individuals shell out literally billions of dollars on antioxidant supplements (nearly $2 billion, in fact, just on beta carotene and vitamins C and E alone- as Americans consume over 50 billion multivitamins and mineral tablets per year). This is done with the belief that they will lower their risk of cancer, heart disease, and the loss of memory and even stave off illness or reduce the time frame of an illness.
But wait!?!? Aren't mass does of anti-oxidants supposed to help? Let's get into the nitty gritty.
People take anti-oxidants as it is believe oxidation is bad and individuals look to prevent this from occurring within themselves. An example of oxidation would be leaving a nail outdoors. Over time, the nail turns to rust. This is due to an event known as, "oxidation". It would be crazy to think though that the element we need most to survive (oxygen) would also be that of our demise.
In 2007, a review of 47 randomized controlled trials, totaling 181,000 subjects, found that antioxidants increased mortality by 5%. Beta carotene was found to increase risk of mortality by 7%, vitamin A by 16% and vitamin E by 4% (vitamin C has no significant effect on mortality. The crazy thing about these statistics is that anti oxidants are heralded to this day as the anti-aging miracle cure! In reality, these particular anti oxidants are reducing ones life span!!!
Our bodies attempt to remain in a constant state of homeostasis. Quite simply, this means our body wishes to regulate oxidative stress. A simple way to understand this is by comparing it to emotional stress. When we are overwhelmed too quickly, we crumble. Over time though, we adapt to stress levels that are not so stressful anymore. We have adapted. Our bodies to the exact same thing. By adding large doses of anti oxidants to our system, we are throwing it off kilter just as if we ingested a large amount of toxins all at the same time.
When we exercise, we actually dramatically increase free- radical production in our bodies. However, these free radicals actually help the body to adapt to exercise. Many once believed that due to this increase in free- radical production, one should take anti oxidants to combat this. Quite the contrary has been discovered in that taking antioxidant supplements reduces exercise capacity and interferes with the benefits of exercise such as insulin sensitivity and boosting our resistance to disease.
Do not get me wrong in saying all antioxidants are bad. High dose antioxidant supplements are far different from the physiological levels of antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables. While antioxidant supplements may not be as beneficial as once believed (before reading this article), eating vegetables and fruit in moderation is a very good idea.
Before going to the fun part and seeing what each antioxidant truly does and does not do, it's important to know what free radicals are. It's time to go back to high school chemistry!!!
What is a Free Radical? (The Complicated Stuff Going on Inside Our Bodies)
Free radicals are a chemical species that possess an unpaired electron in the outer (valence) shell of the molecule. This is the key factor in the structure of this species and is the reason why they are highly reactive. This species is in reality composed of a group of molecular fragments that are capable of independent existence.
The fact that they are highly reactive means that they have low chemical specificity; i.e. they can react with most molecules in its vicinity. This includes proteins, lipids, carbohydrates and DNA. This means that in trying to gain stability by capturing the needed electron they don't survive in their original state for very long and quickly react with their surroundings. This is why free radicals attack the nearest stable molecule, "stealing" its electron. When the "attacked" molecule loses its electron, it becomes a free radical itself, beginning a chain reaction. Once the process is started, it can cascade, finally resulting in the disruption of a living cell.
The purpose of antioxidants is to donate a free electron so the electron in the outer (valence) shell of the molecule becomes paired. The problem with overdosing on artificial antioxidants is that you may be donating too many electrons and creating further oxidation.
Vitamin C has long been touted to prevent and treat the common cold. Supplement claims state that it prevents and/ or reduces the time one has either the rhino virus or corona virus (common cold).
In order to accomplish this, mega doses of vitamin C would have to be taken. Considering our body does not absorb more than 250 mg per day, it is impossible for us to realize the benefits of the mass doses of vitamin C ingested, making our urine quite expensive as what we do not absorb from the 10g-100g (note the grams not milligrams), is excreted in urine.
It should be noted that in certain cases such as smoking where oxidation is at extreme high levels, more antioxidants are required to combat the effects of oxidation. Yet when the popular antioxidant beta carotene is looked at, doses greater than 8 mg per day actually increase the incidence of cancer rather than decrease it.
The following are antioxidant facts to follow for your health. These will help guide you along the way to a better understanding of the specifics of antioxidants:
-Lycopene, which if taken in cooked tomatoes, has been shown to have a 23% lower incidence of prostate cancer in men as compared with having less than one serving per month.
-High intakes of leutin and zeaxanthin had a 20% reduction in the rate of cataract formation. The best sources of this is in kale and spinach (EAT YOUR GREENS!!!) boating 18mg/100g and 11/mg/100g respectively.
-Flavanoids, which are found in abundance in dark chocolate, green and black tea and red wine, have been shown to lower blood pressure, inhibit inflammation, inhibit cancer growth, and even protect against neurodegeneration.
Japan has one of the lowest incidences of lung cancer and cardiovascular disease in the world despite such high rates of cigarette smoking. This is thought to be due to the effects of catechins (flavanoid) as the Japanese average 5 cups of green tea per day.
-Selenium is currently a huge "immune booster" fad. It is seen in many immune enhancing supplements on the market today. Selenium is a well noted antioxidant and anti-aging mineral.
It is known that an adequate intake of selenium, sufficient to optimize the functioning of selenoproteins, appears necessary for optimal health and to reduce cancer incidence. While those living in the United Kingdom appear to be deficient (on average), those living in the United States are already getting enough selenium in their diet. With this being said, more is not better. Selenium is a double edged sword whereas too little or too much much may increase risk of type 2 diabetes and cancer. For those living in the United States, it appears 60mcg-100mcg/day is all that is necessary for optimal health and prevention of prostate cancer.
It appears those who live close to the equator are sick far less than those who live further away. Adequate vitamin D levels has shown to decrease risk of osteoporosis and minimizes fractures in the elderly. It has also been shown to reduce risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, dementia, pre-eclampsia, the flu and depression. Optimal dosing appears to be between 20 ng/ml and 30 ng/ml. However, research is still very young and the hardcore evidence (at the time of writing) is not there yet to fully understand the benefits of vitamin D and dosing.
One thing on dosing is appearing to be clear though that there is a range in which too little or too much can be bad for humans. Data from the third NHANES study suggested that those with vitamin D levels less than 20n g/ml had a 28% higher mortality rate than those with 30 ng/ml and above. Yet those whose levels were greater than 24 ng/ml-30 ng/ml had mortality rates that began to rise once again. Those with vitamin D levels above 50 ng/ml had no extra health benefits than those whose levels were between 24 ng/ml-30 ng/ml.
The Parting Shot
Much of this information is obviously new. Why haven't I heard this you ask? This is nothing new however. Our bodies work how our bodies work. Most research is done in vitro, meaning outside of the cells (in a petri dish). Results from this are used and published. But to be accurate, we must instead understand that the variables in what works and occurs within the body (in vivo). Results on humans is what should be considered and not results from a lab in a dish. But in vitro results sell product and make companies a lot of money.
As far back as 1931, the American Journal of Public Health declared, "We suffer in this country particularly from fads...because of the many statements of "food experts". Now almost a century later, nothing has changed.
Spend your money on what you wish. You can have the most expensive urine possible and increase your risk of mortality or you can save your money and increase your life span. The choice is yours. What will you do with it?
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3. Chen, L. et al. J Natl Cancer Inst., 2001; 93(24):1872-9
4. Brown., L. et al. Am J Clin Nutr., 1999; 70(4):509-16
6. Sood, MM. and Sood. A.R. Amer Clin Nutr. 2007; 86(5)
7. Am Jnl Public Health Nations Health, 1931; 21(5): 543-5
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