Book Review: 
Things You Should Know About . . .
The Nutrient-Depleting
Effects of Everyday Drugs

The Nutritional Cost of Prescription Drugs. Ross Pelton, R.Ph., and James B. LaValle, R.Ph. Morton Publishing Company, Englewood, CO, 2000. Paperback, 250 pp., $14.95.

any of the bad things we hear about street drugs - e.g., cocaine or methamphetamine - are also true of many common prescription and over-the-counter medications. Whether purchased on the street (not that you actually do this) or at the drugstore, both classes of drugs can seriously affect our health, yet we give hardly a second thought to some of the harmful effects of the legal drugs we buy. We should, though, because many of these drugs can cause severe nutritional losses, the consequences of which can place our health in jeopardy - an irony if there ever was one.

From two of the authors (both registered pharmacists) who recently brought us the Drug-Induced Nutrient Depletion Handbook, 1999-2000 (reviewed in this publication last September) comes another just-published reference book, The Nutritional Cost of Prescription Drugs (the title is a misnomer, because the book also includes over-the-counter drugs). With clear heads for nutrition, Drs. Ross Pelton and James LaValle have simplified the content of their earlier book for the lay audience with this well-written and affordable book. In it, they describe in detail the health problems that can arise from the drug-induced nutritional losses that we all too readily incur because they fly under our radar, propelled by the friendly local pharmacy or supermarket.

The Nutritional Cost of Prescription Drugs is conveniently divided into two sections, the first by categories of prescription drugs and over-the-counter drugs, and the second by the specific nutrients that are most affected by these drugs. The shock of some of the surprises in this book is like getting hit by a fire hose. For instance: aspirin depletes vitamin C and pantothenic acid; mineral oil reduces calcium and vitamins A and E; penicillin and other antibiotics take out niacin; and oral contraceptives diminish vitamins B2, B3, B6, folic acid, magnesium, and zinc.

Not to leave us low and wet, in the same section on nutrients the authors simply and efficiently describe the causes and symptoms of nutrient deficiencies. They also discuss the biological functions and effects of drugs, their toxicities, and their recommended doses. They tell us what we can do about the blight of drugs that can do us as much harm as good unless we know the score and are prepared to take countermeasures.

Up front, before we get to the nutrient-depletion section, the drugs that are to blame are laid out clearly by content and category. A convenient guide starts off the chapter. This is an easy book to use. There are also brief sections on how best to use the book, what its limitations are, information about the underlying science, and messages about safety and health. Two indexes complete The Nutritional Cost of Prescription Drugs, one on the entire contents and the other on brand names and generic drugs.

In the introduction, Dr. Jonathan Wright rightly takes up the purist's offensive, stating that in the past not enough emphasis has been placed on defensive measures for those times when we have no choice but to turn to one or more drugs. Until now, he continues, there has been no convenient resource, least of all the government, but that has changed with this valuable reference work, a primer for nutrition and a book that no household should be without. Well said, and we agree. Buy this book. Even if you are sophisticated in your knowledge, the chances are good that a loved one who isn't as steeped in this field as you are will find it of even more value, especially if you put it in a convenient place.

Dr. Pelton is also the author, with Taffy Clarke Pelton, of the first, and in many ways still the best, "smart drug" book, Mind Food & Smart Pills: A Sourcebook for the Vitamins, Herbs, and Drugs That Can Increase Intelligence, Improve Memory, and Prevent Brain Aging.

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