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Tuna Additives Sound a Bit Fishy but Add Flavor

September 21, 1998|ED BLONZ

Dear Dr. Blonz: Many brands of canned tuna have hydrolyzed casein, hydrolyzed soy protein and vegetable broth listed in addition to the expected ingredients. Why are they added? Are these hydrolyzed ingredients as unhealthy as hydrolyzed fats?

--K.B.

Springfield, N.J.

Dear K.B.: Similar to other proteins, soy protein and casein (the major protein found in milk) are made up of amino acids. When a protein is hydrolyzed, it is broken into fragments of one or more amino acids through the use of enzymes or chemicals. The process involves the use of water molecules (that's where the "hydro" comes from).

We tend to find hydrolyzed proteins in processed foods because many amino acids have the ability to enhance flavors. The vegetable broth is also there to add flavor to the product. These ingredients are not unhealthful, unless you happen to react to monosodium glutamate, or MSG. The breaking apart of protein liberates glutamic acid, an amino acid that is widely distributed in foods.

You mentioned hydrolyzed fats, but I believe you were referring to hydrogenated fats. This is a different process, one in which hydrogen is forced into formerly unsaturated oils to make them more saturated and give them different characteristics. The hydrogenation process is indeed unhealthy, as it creates aberrant compounds--known as trans-fatty acids--that are associated with a wide variety of ailments, including heart disease and cancer.

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Dear Dr. Blonz: I have a couple of bottles of ginkgo biloba. One says, "Take one caplet (60 mg) three times daily with a full glass of water, preferably after a meal." The other one says, "Take one tablet (120 mg) per day in the morning or at bedtime, on a slightly empty stomach." So now I don't know which is the correct way and time to take these supplements, or how many milligrams are sufficient. Can you help me on this? If it's supposed to be on a "slightly empty stomach," how do I know when my stomach is slightly empty? I'm either hungry or not, and if I'm hungry, I eat. Is "slightly empty" when I first start eating? Thanks for your help.

--Y.D.

Los Angeles

Dear Y.D.: You didn't say why you are taking the ginkgo biloba, so I will have to assume that you have a good reason. As a general rule, before you begin self-treatment, you should ascertain--ideally by consulting with your health professional--whether or not the symptoms you are attempting to treat are based on some underlying disease that requires your attention.

That said, your question points out one of the difficulties attendant to the herbal explosion spreading across the land. People hear about an herb, and they want in, but they don't know how much to take or--even more important--whom to trust. Ginkgo biloba (GINK-goh bill-OH-buh) comes from the world's oldest living tree species. According to the German Commission E, perhaps the most widely respected source of information on the use of herbs, Ginkgo is approved for use in a number of conditions: memory deficits, dementia syndrome, peripheral arterial occlusive disease, vertigo and tinnitus (ringing in the ear), among others. In the United States, Ginkgo is not an approved drug and is sold as a food supplement.

My sources say you should take one 40-milligram tablet three times daily, with meals. I used the book "Herbs of Choice: The Therapeutic Use of Phytochemicals," by Varro E. Tyler, PhD, ScD, dean emeritus of the Purdue University School of Pharmacy and Pharmacal Sciences. Adjust your dosages accordingly, but as you can see, the "with meals" appears to be correct. If you have any questions, you should contact the manufacturers for clarification of their instructions.

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Ed Blonz is the author of the "Your Personal Nutritionist" book series (Signet, 1996). Send questions to: On Nutrition, Ed Blonz, c / o Newspaper Enterprise Assn., 200 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10016, or e-mail ed@blonz.com. Personal replies cannot be provided.

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