Jewish World Review March 26, 2002 / 12 Nisan, 5762
Dr. Ed Blonz
Dear S.G.: Shark cartilage gained faddist fame as an anti-cancer compound, because it was thought that there was something unique in the cartilage that could prevent the development and spread of cancer. Since then, certain cancers have been identified in sharks. Even more important, research studies supplied little support for the use of shark cartilage as an anticancer agent. Research continues in the hopes of finding isolated compounds that might be beneficial.
There was also the idea that shark cartilage might be helpful in treating arthritis and psoriasis. This idea stemmed from the fact that compounds in shark cartilage have an apparent ability to inhibit the creation of new blood vessels.
There have been a couple of small but promising studies, but many questions remain. It remains unclear whether, or to what degree, shark cartilage might work; what compound in the cartilage might be bringing about the effect; whether this unknown compound is present in all types of shark cartilage; and what constitutes an effective dose. Clearly, more work needs to be done before a recommendation can be made.
DEAR DR. BLONZ: After reading your column on decaffeination techniques, I have a question about removing acid from coffee. I've been drinking Kavar -- with caffeine but with the acid removed -- for decades. Do you know anything about how coffee without acid is processed? (It's very expensive.) Thank you for your help. - G.K., Walnut Creek, Calif.
Dear G.K.: Kavar brand coffee, a beverage that has no connection with the herb kava-kava, is an acid-neutralized instant coffee that contains caffeine. The manufacturers don't "remove" the acid, per se. Rather, they add a potassium salt that neutralizes it. This is similar to what happens when you swallow an antacid, but Kavar's process is done in a way that eliminates the coffee's acid nature without affecting the brew's flavor.
DEAR DR. BLONZ: Do you know of any calcium supplements that come in gel caps or some easily swallowed form (not TUMS or the chewable chocolates)? I have a terrible time swallowing these pills, even when they're broken in half, and other people I have talked to have the same problem. -- M.C., Santa Barbara, Calif.
Dear M.C.: Calcium supplements are sold in softgel-capsule form. You should be able to find them at a natural food store, or you could search for them at an online vitamin outlet. Don't neglect food, such as dark, green, leafy vegetables, yogurt or calcium-fortified juices as calcium sources. With these foods, you can get the calcium you need, accompanied by other valuable nutrients.
DEAR DR. BLONZ: Awhile ago you answered a question about a healthy alternative to coffee creamers. I found a product called fat-free half-and-half substitute. The ingredients are nonfat milk, corn syrup, artificial color, sodium citrate, dipotassium phosphate, mono and diglycerides, carrageenan and vitamin A palmitate. One tablespoon contains 10 calories and 0 grams of fat. It tastes fine. Please let me know what you think about this product and if it's healthier than regular half and half. - H.C., San Diego, Calif.
Dear H.C.: Another reader wrote in recommending the use of nonfat dry milk as a "creamer," but for someone who wants to avoid half-and-half, this product is certainly preferable to one made with partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. Thanks for your
03/19/02: Lowering sodium in canned veggies; Are natural vitamins better?