Dear Dr. Blonz: I was told to take a calcium supplement, but the one I purchased says to consult your doctor if you are taking estrogen, which I am. Why is that? — J.D., Anderson, South Carolina
Dear J.D.: Product cautions are not to be taken lightly. But for some perspective, these warnings serve the dual purpose of alerting consumers to potential concerns while affording the product's manufacturer a measure of liability protection. There are always possibilities for unforeseen interactions. When there is a known risk, or at least a suspected one, these tend to get notations on the product label or insert.
As for the particulars of your question, calcium supplements are commonly used along with hormone replacement therapy. Other ingredients in that supplement may be responsible for the caution. Get clearance from your physician, which may only involve a simple phone call.
The bottom line is that these decisions are best made with the health professional most familiar with your particular situation.
Dear Dr. Blonz: Is there any significant difference between the protein in red meat and that found in seafood, such as shrimp? I reduced my meat intake to once a week, but I'm concerned that I'm not getting enough protein. I do a cardio workout three days a week and also work out with weights. I am interested in adding some seafood to the menu, but wondered if that protein is as good as that found in meat. — SF, Phoenix AZ,
Dear S.F.: There are minor differences between the proteins found in red meat and seafood, and these are mainly different amounts of the various essential amino acids. Both are considered high-quality "complete" proteins, in that they both contain good amounts of all the amino acids the body needs to make its protein. To answer your question, you should consider them comparable.
Scientists score proteins by looking at the types of amino acids they contain and then comparing them with the amino acids in our body's protein. Those that compare most favorably have the highest score. Egg whites (albumin) are usually considered to be the ideal protein, followed by dairy, fish, beef and poultry. Contrast this with lower-scoring vegetable proteins, such as corn, wheat and rice, which contain some protein but lesser amounts of one or more of the essential amino acids. Be aware that the protein listing on the Nutrition Facts label does not address protein quality.
Most people have no problem getting the protein they require. In fact, in this country, we tend to eat more protein than our bodies need. We also have fewer of the plant foods that can help provide the dietary fiber and valuable phytochemicals that support our health.
The key is to have a mix of high-quality protein foods and other protein-containing foods, including grains, legumes, vegetables, nuts and seeds.