The need for good high-potency multiple vitamin/mineral supplements for people wanting to function optimally is getting harder to deny. When multiple nutrients are recommended, many of their requirements may be met in a single multiple product. This saves the user time and expense, while providing insurance against potential unrecognized deficiencies.
If the likelihood of a person being deficient in a particular nutrient, based on RDA requirements, is 2% then multiplied across 40 nutrients, the chance of being deficient in at least one of them becomes 55%. Considering that the likelihood of some nutrient deficiencies is much greater than 2%, the chance of the average person being deficient in at least one nutrient could be much higher. Taking a multiple supplement for insurance purposes is therefore wise. Additionally, if optimal health is a practical and reasonable goal, why settle for less with a marginal nutrient status?
The orthodox medical community for many years considered it nearly a crime to claim that fruit and vegetable intake would have any influence on cancer development. That changed just a few short years ago. Finally, the editors of JAMA (June 19, 2002), published 2 studies that endorsed the use of dietary supplements by healthy people as a way of reducing the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis. This was the first time that the AMA officially recognized the benefits of dietary supplements in preventing disease.
Select populations will benefit from specific supplementation as in the following examples:
- Prenatal vitamins are important for pregnant women
- Folate supplementation with early pregnancy reduces the risk of neural tube defects in newborns
- Daily vitamin/mineral supplements with antioxidant nutrients can reduce infections in the elderly by enhancing immune function
- Premature infants need supplemental iron and vitamin K to maintain health
- People on poor diets or selected medications which deplete key nutrients, or who abuse alcohol or narcotics are likely to be deficient in micronutrients and should see improved health with supplementation
- A 1989 study found calcium, magnesium, iron and manganese were low in teenage girls. Calcium, magnesium and iron were low in adult women. Calcium, magnesium and zinc were low in older women. Calcium and zinc were low in the diets of two year olds. Magnesium was low in the diets of teenage boys and older men.
Supplementation does not mean you are free to eat as poorly as you like. Supplements do just that - they supplement
a good diet.
Some principles for supplement selection:
- The best multiple vitamins should contain a broad range of vitamins and minerals, particularly vitamins A, D, K, all of the B vitamins, and trace minerals, like boron, chromium, copper, iron, manganese, selenium, and zinc.
- Multiple vitamins should contain about 100%, but no more than 300%, of the daily RDA for each nutrient provided.
- If you are trying to increase your calcium or magnesium intake, you will probably have to take extra supplements of these nutrients since most multiples contain low amounts.
- Multiple vitamins or supplements should contain the antioxidants vitamin C (250-1,000mg), vitamin E (100-400 IU), and beta-carotene (10-30mg).
- If you want to save money, look for supplements that don't contain unnecessary ingredients like lipoic acid or enzymes, or the 'natural' products, unless you feel there is a need for them.
- If you are spending more than $10 per month on supplements, you are probably paying for unnecessary extras.
If your desire is only to achieve adequate
health then supplementation may not be necessary if your diet is very good. Optimal health, however, requires optimal nutrient intake; a diet high in processed foods and those grown in increasingly depleted soils virtually guarantees the need for supplementation.
Antioxidant: A chemical compound that slows or prevents oxygen from reacting with other compounds. Some antioxidants have been shown to have cancer-protecting potential because they neutralize free radicals. Examples include vitamins C and E, alpha lipoic acid, beta carotene, the minerals selenium, zinc, and germanium, superoxide dismutase (SOD), coenzyme Q10, catalase, and some amino acids, like cystiene. Other nutrient sources include grape seed extract, curcumin, gingko, green tea, olive leaf, policosanol and pycnogenol.
Beta-Carotene: The most abundant of the carotenoids, beta-carotene has strong provitamin A activity and is a stronger antioxidant than vitamin A. It is widely accepted today as a cancer preventative. It is found in leafy green and yellow vegetables, often missing in children's diets. Beta-Carotene is believed to be a superior source of Vitamin A because it is readily converted into a more active form of the substance: your body converts it to Vitamin A as needed.
Boron: A mineral that may play a role in maintaining strong bones, affecting calcium and magnesium metabolism and proper membrane function.
Calcium: The body's most abundant mineral. Its primary function is to help build and maintain bones and teeth. Calcium is also important to heart health, nerves, muscles and skin. Calcium helps control blood acid-alkaline balance, plays a role in cell division, muscle growth and iron utilization, activates certain enzymes, and helps transport nutrients through cell membranes. Calcium also forms a cellular cement called ground substance that helps hold cells and tissues together.
Cancer: Refers to the various types of malignant neoplasms that contain cells growing out of control and invading adjacent tissues, which may metastasize to distant tissues.
Cardiovascular: Pertaining to the heart and blood vessels.
Chromium: Chromium is a mineral that becomes a part of the glucose tolerance factor (GTF). Chromium aids in insulin utilization and blood sugar control. By controlling blood sugar, chromium helps prevent the damage caused by glucose, which is called glycation. Chromium helps maintain normal cholesterol levels and improves high-density lipoprotein levels. Chromium is also important in building muscle and reducing obesity.
Copper: An essential mineral that is a component of several important enzymes in the body and is essential to good health. Copper is found in all body tissues. Copper deficiency leads to a variety of abnormalities, including anemia, skeletal defects, degeneration of the nervous system, reproductive failure, pronounced cardiovascular lesions, elevated blood cholesterol, impaired immunity and defects in the pigmentation and structure of hair. Copper is involved in iron incorporation into hemoglobin. It is also involved with vitamin C in the formation of collagen and the proper functioning in central nervous system. More than a dozen enzymes have been found to contain copper. The best studied are superoxide dismutase (SOD), cytochrome C oxidase, catalase, dopamine hydroxylase, uricase, tryptophan dioxygenase, lecithinase and other monoamine and diamine oxidases.
Enzymes: Specific protein catalysts produced by the cells that are crucial in chemical reactions and in building up or synthesizing most compounds in the body. Each enzyme performs a specific function without itself being consumed. For example, the digestive enzyme amylase acts on carbohydrates in foods to break them down.
Iron: An essential mineral. Prevents anemia: as a constituent of hemoglobin, transports oxygen throughout the body. Virtually all of the oxygen used by cells in the life process are brought to the cells by the hemoglobin of red blood cells. Iron is a small but most vital, component of the hemoglobin in 20,000 billion red blood cells, of which 115 million are formed every minute. Heme iron (from meat) is absorbed 10 times more readily than the ferrous or ferric form.
IU: International Units. One IU is 1/40th (0.025) of a microgram (mcg).
Lipoic acid: A sulfur-containing coenzyme used in the energy process and is also a powerful antioxidant. Has been used therapeutically in the treatment of AIDS and diabetes because of the synergy between alpha-lipoic acid and vitamin E and the interlocking cycles which lead to better optimization of antioxidant nutrients.
Magnesium: An essential mineral. The chief function of magnesium is to activate certain enzymes, especially those related to carbohydrate metabolism. Another role is to maintain the electrical potential across nerve and muscle membranes. It is essential for proper heartbeat and nerve transmission. Magnesium controls many cellular functions. It is involved in protein formation, DNA production and function and in the storage and release of energy in ATP. Magnesium is closely related to calcium and phosphorus in body function. The average adult body contains approximately one ounce of magnesium. It is the fifth mineral in abundance within the body--behind calcium, phosphorus, potassium and sodium. Although about 70 percent of the body's magnesium is contained in the teeth and bones, its most important functions are carried out by the remainder which is present in the cells of the soft tissues and in the fluid surrounding those cells.
Manganese: An essential mineral found in trace amounts in tissues of the body. Adults normally contain an average of 10 to 20mg of manganese in their bodies, most of which is contained in bone, the liver and the kidneys. Manganese is essential to several critical enzymes necessary for energy production, bone and blood formation, nerve function and protein metabolism. It is involved in the metabolism of fats and glucose, the production of cholesterol and it allows the body to use thiamine and Vitamin E. It is also involved in the building and degrading of proteins and nucleic acid, biogenic amine metabolism, which involves the transmitting of nerve impulses.
Milligram: (mg): 1/1,000 of a gram by weight.
Mineral: Plays a vital role in regulating many body functions. They act as catalysts in nerve response, muscle contraction and the metabolism of nutrients in foods. They regulate electrolyte balance and hormonal production, and they strengthen skeletal structures.
Neural Tube: The tube of tissue that lies along the central axis of the early embryo. It gives rise to the brain, spinal cord, and other parts of the central nervous system.
Osteoporosis: A disease in which bone tissue becomes porous and brittle. The disease primarily affects postmenopausal women.
RDA: Recommended Daily Allowance of vitamins or other nutrients as determined by the FDA. U.S. RDAs are more widely used than RDAs, and focus on 3 age groups: Infants of 0-12 months; Children of 1-4 years; Adults and children of more than 4 years.
Selenium: An essential element involved primarily in enzymes that are antioxidants. Three selenium- containing enzymes are antioxidant peroxidases and a fourth selenium-containing enzyme is involved in thyroid hormone production. The prostate contains a selenium-containing protein and semen contains relatively large amounts of selenium. Clinical studies show that selenium is important in lowering the risk of several types of cancers. In combination with Vitamin E, selenium aids the production of antibodies and helps maintain a healthy heart. It also aids in the function of the pancreas, provides elasticity to tissues and helps cells defend themselves against damage from oxidation.
Vitamin C: Also known as ascorbic acid, Vitamin C is a water-soluble antioxidant vitamin essential to the body's health. When bound to other nutrients, for example calcium, it would be referred to as "calcium ascorbate". As an antioxidant, it inhibits the formation of nitrosamines (a suspected carcinogen). Vitamin C is important for maintenance of bones, teeth, collagen and blood vessels (capillaries), enhances iron absorption and red blood cell formation, helps in the utilization of carbohydrates and synthesis of fats and proteins, aids in fighting bacterial infections, and interacts with other nutrients. It is present in citrus fruits, tomatoes, berries, potatoes and fresh, green leafy vegetables.
Vitamin E: An essential fat-soluble vitamin. As an antioxidant, helps protect cell membranes, lipoproteins, fats and vitamin A from destructive oxidation. It helps protect red blood cells and is important for the proper function of nerves and muscles. For Vitamin E only, 1mg translates to 1 IU.
Vitamin K: Helps the blood clot when the body is injured.
Zinc: An essential trace mineral. The functions of zinc are enzymatic. There are over 70 metalloenzymes known to require zinc for their functions. The main biochemicals in which zinc has been found to be necessary include: enzymes and enzymatic function, protein synthesis and carbohydrate metabolism. Zinc is a constituent of insulin and male reproductive fluid. Zinc is necessary for the proper metabolism of alcohol, to get rid of the lactic acid that builds up in working muscles and to transfer it to the lungs. Zinc is involved in the health of the immune system, assists vitamin A utilization and is involved in the formation of bone and teeth.