The Annals of Internal Medicine recently published the results of a study that proclaimed: “Dietary Supplements Do Nothing for Health.” We see one or two studies like this every year. And every time, they have a major problem. This one even admitted its problem (toward the end of the paper): the subjects in this study were generally healthy.
That means the findings don’t necessarily apply to people who are deficient in certain nutrients. I’ve written multiple times that the biggest impact supplements have is on people with nutrient deficiencies. So today, I’m going to show you three recent studies that say exactly the opposite of this study: “Dietary Supplements Reverse Health Problems.” In these cases, they reverse dry eyes, raised blood pressure, and liver problems.
If you have any concerns about the health of your liver, there’s new evidence that one single mineral deficiency could be the cause of liver problems. In fact, several studies say it’s possible you can stop the damage to your liver, actually reverse your lab values, and, in many severe cases, avoid the need for a liver transplant. And you can do all this simply by taking one mineral.
That mineral is magnesium. Today, scientists know that magnesium deficiency is common with chronic liver problems. But prior to 2002, there weren’t any studies showing the effects of a deficiency. Then researchers performed magnesium loading tests in 10 patients with chronic liver problems so severe they were listed for liver transplantation. When they compared their results with six healthy control patients, they found that the patients with liver problems all had a significant deficiency in magnesium.
What was impressive about this study is what happened when they gave magnesium to all the patients (including the controls). The controls absorbed some of magnesium. But the patients with liver problems absorbed three to four times as much magnesium as the controls. In other words, the magnesium given to the healthy patients would have had almost no effect on their health (just like the Annals of Internal Medicine study suggested). But the liver patients would have seen tremendous benefit. Magnesium is so important for the liver that surgeons now monitor magnesium levels before and after liver transplants.
Another study from just last year found that high doses of magnesium greatly reduce the risk of developing a fatty liver. But that’s not all. Regular intake of high-dose magnesium can help prevent damage to the liver in heavy alcohol drinkers. A study from 2008 found that alcohol impairs magnesium transport and homeostasis in the brain, skeletal muscle, heart, and liver. So if you’re a heavy drinker, taking magnesium every day is absolutely vital. It’ll work even better if you cut your alcohol intake down to a moderate level.
And, finally, magnesium can help improve liver enzyme levels. The improvement is significant enough that it can reduce the risk of death from damage caused by alcohol.
So if you’re worried about the health of your liver, taking 1,000 mg of magnesium daily could help significantly. It’s so effective, it can help prevent damage caused by excess drinking. That’s powerful!
One of the First Signs of This Deficiency Could Be in Your Eyes
Another deficiency you have to be concerned about can lead to damage in your heart, brain, lungs, liver, bones, and even your muscles. But the first sign of a deficiency could appear in your eyes.
Two studies show the clear relationship between vitamin D deficiency and eyes that become dry more than usual. The studies show that the deficiency can cause a problem with tear function. In the first study, the researchers looked at 50 premenopausal women with confirmed vitamin D de?ciency. All of their serum vitamin D levels were less than 20 ng/mL, which is severely deficient. They also followed 48 controls.
All of the tests the researchers used confirmed a direct connection between vitamin D and impaired tear function and dry eyes. The researchers concluded that the vitamin protects the eye function, “probably by enhancing tear film parameters and reducing ocular surface inflammation.”
This study was the first to demonstrate the connection between dry eyes and clinic parameters of vitamin D deficiency. These included fatigue, functional impairment, and pain. The researchers said, “"Vitamin D supplementation may be useful for the symptoms of dry eyes, including ocular discomfort, soreness, redness, ocular fatigue, sensitivity to light and blurred vision.”
So if your eyes are getting dry and irritated, consider taking more vitamin D. It usually takes 5,000 IUs daily to push your blood levels above 50 ng/mL (what is considered the minimum healthy level by most integrative physicians). Some people may need to take more vitamin D to get their levels that high and keep them there.
By the way, you can see another sign of vitamin D deficiency in your finger nails. If they’re getting weak and peeling, it could be a sign of vitamin D deficiency. Nutritional deficiencies are one of the main causes of nail problems like peeling or cracking. Either of these signs could indicate a deficiency – and correcting the deficiency could prevent other major health problems in your brain, heart, and other organs.
It’s Not Excess Salt Causing Elevated Blood Pressure
You’ve probably heard that salt causes your blood pressure to go up. So doctors have been telling anyone struggling to keep their blood pressure down to go on a low salt diet. But the body needs salt. So the advice is causing other problems. However, new research is suggesting that it’s not excess salt causing the problem. It’s a zinc deficiency.
The American Journal of Physiology – Renal Physiology published a study earlier this year that showed the relationship between zinc, salt, and blood pressure. As you may know, your kidneys either excrete sodium into the urine or cause it be reabsorbed it into the body. It does the latter through a pathway called the sodium chloride cotransporter (NCC), which also plays a role in blood pressure control. When you have less sodium in your urine, it typically corresponds with higher blood pressure. More sodium in your urine means your kidneys are excreting it properly. So the goal is to make it possible for your kidneys to handle dietary salt. And this study showed that zinc helps regulate proteins that in turn regulate the NCC. In other words, if you don’t have enough zinc in your body, it causes your kidneys to push salt into your body, not out through the bladder.
Since this has never been fully proven in the lab, the researchers in this study set out to confirm the relationship between zinc and elevated blood pressure. To do so, the researchers compared male mice with zinc deficiency to healthy controls with normal zinc levels. The researchers found that the zinc-deficient mice saw their blood pressure go up and the sodium in their urine went down. The control group didn’t experience the same changes.
Partway through the study, the researchers gave a small group of the zinc-deficient mice a zinc-rich diet. Once the animals’ zinc reached adequate levels, their blood pressure began to drop and their urinary sodium levels increased. In other words, the researchers showed very clearly that a zinc deficiency is what causes blood pressure to go up – not excess salt consumption.
The question then is how much zinc you should take. Most people suggest taking 15 mg daily. This might be all you need, but others need much more. Some people need as much as 75 mg daily. If you have thyroid issues, taking 50-75 mg daily might be necessary. However, it’s also at these levels that you could experience zinc toxicity if you don’t need that much. And excess zinc can suppress copper and iron absorption.
Here’s what I suggest. If you have elevated blood pressure that your doctor says is salt related – and has encouraged you to cut your salt intake – start at 15 mg of zinc daily. If that brings your blood pressure down, that’s all you may need. If it doesn’t bring it down or doesn’t bring it down enough, move up to 30 mg and see if that helps. Most people will begin to see their pressure come down in the 15-30 mg range. Some may need to move up to 45 mg, which is safe for most people. If you need to go higher than that, work with your doctor to monitor your health.
I have low thyroid function and take a 59 mg zinc supplement daily. My blood pressure is great and I eat a lot of salt. I keep close tabs on my health through our clinic, and haven’t seen any toxicity at these levels. But we’re all different. So don’t assume it will work for you. Talk to your doctor and see if taking more zinc can lower your blood pressure.
As you can see, supplements can have a dramatic impact on your health – particularly if you’re deficient in any particular nutrients. And when you see studies coming out that suggest supplements are worthless, read all the way through. There’s usually a catch. Millions of supplement buyers know their products help their health.