Friday, January 16, 2009

Multi-Vitamins Benefits

What Are Multi-vitamins?

We all know that we need a certain dosage of vitamins and minerals each day in order to maintain health. But the startling truth is that more than 80 percent of American women and 70 percent of American men received less than two-thirds of their Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of one or more nutrients, according to a 2006 USDA survey. For some, taking a multi-vitamin on a daily basis may be the answer to ensuring that you get the vitamins and minerals you need.

What Is a Multi-vitamin?
Multi-vitamins are "all-in-one" pills that contain a combination of vitamins, minerals and trace elements. There are many different types of vitamins and minerals and many different combinations thereof. Dr. Ray Sahelian, a certified family practice doctor who specializes in nutrition, says that there are thousands of different vitamin companies and each one will include a different amount of vitamins and minerals in their products. Some may focus on providing a mixture of antioxidants like vitamins A, E and C in addition to various minerals. Others might concentrate on calcium and magnesium supplements, while some offer a complete range of vitamins and minerals.

However, typical multi-vitamins usually contain protein, vitamin A, D, E, C, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folacin (folic acid), B12, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, zinc, iodine and selenium plus some other nutrients can be included. Vitamin K, which is involved in blood clotting, is only available by prescription because of toxicity.

Multi-vitamins usually consist of raw U.S.P. (United States Pharmacopeia) ingredients that are individually purchased from a supplier, formulated, blended and then put into pill form. The most common and cheapest method is to compress all the ingredients into a tablet, under 50,000 pounds of pressure. Multi-vitamins can also be encapsulated without compression, and you end up with more pills and bigger bottles. Multi-vitamin supplements are also available in chewable and liquid forms.

Why Should I Consider Taking Them?

There are many different reasons why you should take a multi-vitamin. In general, vitamins help regulate metabolism, help convert fat and carbohydrates into energy, and assist in forming bone and tissue. They can also promote wound healing. But vitamins cannot be assimilated by the body without minerals. While the body can produce some of the vitamins, it cannot produce any of the minerals. All tissues and internal fluids of the body contain varying quantities of minerals. Bones, teeth, soft tissue, muscle, blood, and nerve cells are comprised of minerals. These minerals act as catalysts for many biological reactions within the body, including muscle response, the transmission of messages through the nervous system, the production of hormones, digestion, and the utilization of nutrients in foods.

A healthy balanced diet should provide all the vitamins and minerals you need, but with manufacturing processes that destroy nutrients, food storage methods that allow nutrients to be depleted and the hectic lifestyle of the modern world, which encourages us to depend on junk food, this is often not possible. Taking a multi-vitamin can make up for low vitamin and mineral intake, though it is no substitute for a healthy balanced diet.

Certain groups of people can benefit from taking multi-vitamins to compensate for the loss of important vitamins and minerals. Smokers, pregnant women, those who consume alcohol, older individuals and athletes, those who take certain medications, or those with food allergies, for example, can all benefit from taking multi-vitamins. Vegetarians can also benefit from taking a multi-vitamin, as can those consuming less than 1,200 calories a day to lose weight. If you are under stress or have generally poor nutrition you should also take a multi-vitamin.

If you find yourself in any of these categories you may not be getting the vitamins and nutrients that you need in your diet because of inhibiting factors. A multi-vitamin might be the answer to compensating for that lack.

Many different people can benefit from taking a multi-vitamin. If you are not eating a healthy diet then you should take a supplement to give your body the vitamins and minerals it needs. You may also need a multi-vitamin at different stages in your life; when you are pregnant, experiencing menopause or aging. Lifestyle choices such as smoking, drinking and taking drugs also create a need for additional vitamins and minerals.

During Pregnancy
Studies show that pregnant women can be protected against the occurrence of fetal neural tube defects by taking a multi-vitamin or folate. Multi-vitamins containing folic acid and the B vitamins are especially helpful to those in this category. Studies also show that the iron requirements of pregnant women cannot be met by diet alone and an iron supplement should be taken. More iron is needed for both fetal demand and the large increase in maternal blood volume.

If You Smoke or Consume Alcohol
Dr. Sahelian says that smokers can benefit from increased antioxidants intake in order to protect their lung tissue and vitamin B, since smoking adversely affects the absorption of this vitamin. Consuming alcohol inhibits the intake of vitamin C.

As You Age
The ability to absorb B vitamins declines with age, according to Dr. Sahelian, and older individuals can benefit from taking a multi-vitamin with vitamin B and calcium. These multi-vitamin supplements can boost the immune system by up to 60 percent. Good vitamin and mineral intake can also lessen the incidence of infectious diseases in the aged.

Athletes put enormous physical stress on their systems, using up a lot of vitamins during energy production, says Dr. Sahelian, and are also candidates for taking multi-vitamins.

Vegetarians - Especially Vegans
Vegetarians, and especially vegans, are at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency, which can lead to anemia and nerve and muscle problems, because this vitamin is only found in animals. Taking a multi-vitamin or mineral supplement, providing 100 percent of the RDA for vitamin B12, can help prevent this deficiency, according to the American Dietetic Association.

Including a multi-vitamin in your lifestyle can be a good step to improving your overall health. According to Dr. Sahelian, multi-vitamins are the insurance policy of the body; they help provide the nutrients that may be missing in the diet. Most people who take a multi-vitamin feel more energetic and alert, with an improved sense of vitality, says Dr. Sahelian.

How Much Do You Need?

Every person is different and we all need different amounts of the various vitamins and minerals. A good guide is the Recommended Dietary Allowance guidelines, which are usually published on the boxes of multi-vitamins. But remember ingesting the RDA of each vitamin and mineral does not mean you are getting the optimal amount of those substances. The RDA is meant as a guide to the average amount of vitamins and minerals most people need to maintain a healthy lifestyle and avoid diseases caused by vitamin deficiencies. Before taking any vitamins, check with your doctor to determine your individual needs.

Taking vitamin supplements with food can help increase absorption and avoid stomach irritations, which can occur if a multi-vitamin is taken on an empty stomach. If you are taking a multi-vitamin with high dosages of certain vitamins and minerals like vitamin B or A, use a time-release capsule or divide the tablet up and take it in smaller doses during the day. Multi-vitamins with a high content of fat-soluble vitamins like A, E and K should be taken with the meal containing the most fat.

Read the label on the multi-vitamin carefully and choose one that offers the necessary vitamins and minerals you need. Also look out for the use of colorants and preservatives and avoid those supplements that contain them in great amounts. It is also important to check the date on a multi-vitamin bottle. The efficacy of vitamins, especially antioxidants, could decrease with time, as air, light exposure and heat can break them down.

When choosing a multi-vitamin be sure to consider and look for the following:
  • A statement on the box that says that it has been tested for disintegration and dissolution under USP methods. Sometimes the additional substances added to the vitamins and minerals or the production process make them hard to absorb. The USP tests ensure that the multi-vitamin can be broken down and used by your body.
  • A multi-vitamin that contains the entire B vitamin complex (thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, pyridoxine, biotin, folic acid, pantothenic acid and cobalmin), as these work together synergistically.
  • Look for natural beta-carotene (Dunaliella salina) rather than the synthetic kind.
  • A product with more than 400 micrograms of folic acid and 30 micrograms of B-12. These two substances can assist with cardiovascular health.
  • Multi-vitamins that contain large amounts of antioxidants like vitamins A, C and E as well as selenium, zinc and copper. Antioxidants protect your body from free-radical damage.
  • Look for chelated minerals as these offer maximum absorption and utilization. Chelated minerals are those that are bound to amino acids.
  • If you are a woman of childbearing age, do not chose a multi-vitamin with more than 4000 IU of vitamin A in the form of acetate or palmitate.
  • Look for natural vitamin E, which is denoted by the d- prefix, for example d-alpha tocopherol. This type of vitamin E is more easily absorbed by the body than synthetic kinds (denoted by the dl- prefix), which is more easily excreted by the body.
  • Avoid products using sulfates as the source for minerals. Iron from ferrous sulfate is inferior to iron from ferrous fumarate or ferric citrate.
Whichever you choose, always be sure to follow the directions provided and always store your vitamin supplements in a cool, dry place to prevent the breakdown of the ingredients. Make sure that the multi-vitamins you buy were also stored in a cool, dry place.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Vitamins and Minerals You Need

You may take your health for granted, but as the saying goes 'Ignore your health and it will go away!'

The key to maintaining good health is having an understanding of what your body needs. From the moment of conception and throughout your lifetime, your body needs the same 40 or more nutrients. However, the amount of each nutrient will vary with the stages of life or illness.

When looking at your nutrient and health goals, it is important to keep these objectives in mind: supply your body with enough good nutrition to avoid deficiencies, and provide your body with the appropriate amounts of necessary nutrients to maintain and support optimal health. Since no single food supplies all the nutrients your body needs, eating a wide variety of foods in moderation can help.

Why You Need Vitamins and Minerals
Scientists continue to uncover how specific vitamins and minerals work individually and together to protect health. Although, needed in small amounts, these micronutrients play a powerful role in keeping your body going each day. Vitamins are needed to transform food into energy, they help to regulate bodily processes, and they combine with other substances to facilitate chemical reactions in your body. Minerals do similar types of work, in addition to, being the foundation for many cells especially bone, teeth, and nails.

As you read news headlines, it is sometimes hard to make sense of the featured benefits of vitamins and minerals. This is particularly true for the claims about antioxidants that have them tagged as "wonder" nutrients for their wide-ranging impact from preventing heart disease and cancer to slowing the aging process. However, how do you know it's true? Well, understanding what they do and where they are found may help.

What They Do
Antioxidants work on neutralizing free radicals, oxygen byproducts in your body that can damage healthy cells. Free radicals are unstable oxygen molecules flowing through your body that have lost an electron through exposure to pollution, sunlight, and daily wear and tear. These free radicals search out healthy cells and steal their electrons to stabilize themselves, thus creating more free radicals and damaging healthy cells in the process.

Free radical damage is what can cause fat to stick to artery walls, cell mutations leading to cancer formation, and damage to eyes that may lead to cataracts. Antioxidants block this process by coming between the free radical and the healthy cell and offering up their own electrons. Therefore, they neutralize the free radicals and keep your healthy cells out of harm's way.

Where They Are Found
Antioxidant nutrients include three micronutrients: beta carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E. These work in conjunction with several minerals such as selenium, copper, zinc, and manganese to remove free radicals from your body.

To get enough of these nutritional powerhouses focus your diet on real foods rather than supplements. Real foods are preferable because researchers are still unsure about which substances in food are responsible for the beneficial effects. Plus, they do not know whether benefits come from a combination of nutrients or one single vitamin or mineral, or a compound yet to be found.

Antioxidant and Mineral-Rich Foods
Foods rich in beta-carotene include sweet potatoes, apricots, peaches, carrots, cantaloupe and spinach. Vitamin C rich foods include peppers, cantaloupe, oranges, grapefruit, strawberries, kale and potatoes. Nuts, seeds and oils are foods rich in vitamin E, as well as, fortified cereals and leafy green vegetables.

Seafood is the best source of selenium. To ensure adequate intake of manganese, whole grain products, pineapples, strawberries and tea should be added to your weekly shopping list. For foods rich in zinc look to meat, seafood, wheat bran, whole-grains, legumes and soybeans. By including seafood and nuts in your regular diet it will also help you cover your zinc needs.

Besides building bones as we grow, calcium also helps to keep them strong by slowing the rate of bone loss as we age. What many people don't realize is that calcium also helps with muscle contraction and blood pressure. Dairy products are the best source, but some leafy greens such as kale, broccoli and bok choy contain calcium. Fortified foods and tofu made with calcium sulfate can also help meet your needs.

Without iron your body would be starving for oxygen, this mineral plays an important role in hemoglobin formation, which carries oxygen to the body's cells. Iron found in animal foods (heme-iron), such as meat, chicken, and eggs, and is better absorbed by the body than iron found in plant foods (non-heme). You can enhance the absorption of non-heme iron by combining it with foods rich in vitamin C.

Multi-Vitamin and Mineral Supplements
Evaluating whether you need a multi-vitamin and mineral supplement can be tricky and confusing for some. You should check with your doctor to determine if taking any type of supplement is appropriate for you. Most researchers will agree that taking a daily multivitamin is a good source of health insurance for those days your diet gets short-changed.

Additional supplements that your doctor may recommend include:
  • 200 IU of vitamin E everyday - it has been linked with cancer prevention and reducing risk of heart disease. If you are at risk for these diseases it may be raised to 400 IU.
  • For women who are planning to get pregnant, 400 mcg of folic acid supplement can reduce the risk of neural tube defects.
  • Women in their menopausal years can benefit taking additional calcium, at least 600-1200 mg /day.
  • Make sure there is some vitamin D available either in the multivitamin supplement or calcium supplement to aid in the absorption of calcium.
To ensure that your body has every chance for health promotion and disease prevention, start with eating a well-balanced meal plan and consider supplementing with a multivitamin and mineral tablet containing at least 100% percent of the USRDA or Daily Value (DV).

Friday, December 19, 2008

Copper: Role in the Body & Benefits

Role in the Body
Copper plays a role in bone, hemoglobin, red blood cells, collagen, and nerve sheath formation. It is also involved in the metabolism of vitamin C, energy production and needed for taste sensitivity.

Dietary Sources
Copper is found in oysters, lobster, and other shellfish, as well as in nuts, avocados, potatoes, organ meats, whole grains, beans, peas and raisins.

Who Is at Risk for Deficiency?
Deficiency is rare, although some people with celiac disease may have trouble absorbing copper.

A rare disorder called Wilson's disease results in copper accumulation in the liver, causing toxicity and if left untreated, may result in death.

Boron: Role in the Body & Benefits

Role in the Body
Boron is necessary for healthy bones and calcium and for the metabolism of magnesium and phosphorous.

Dietary Sources
It is found in carrots, apples, grapes, pears, leafy vegetables, and grains.

Who Is at Risk for Deficiency?
Boron deficiency is rare, although some elderly people may need small supplements to aid in calcium absorption.

It is thought that boron may prevent bone loss and demineralization, especially in postmenopausal women.

The Electrolytes (Sodium, Potassium and Chloride)

Role in the Body
All are necessary for maintaining water balance and blood pH, nerve impulses, and muscle contraction. They are important for regulating blood pressure and are involved in transporting substances in and out of cells.

Dietary Sources
Sodium and chloride are found in virtually all foods. Good sources of potassium include apricots, bananas, dates, brewer's yeast, nuts, potatoes, and raisins.

Who Is at Risk for Deficiency?
People who have had severe vomiting or diarrhea may experience electrolyte imbalances, as may people taking diuretics.

Potassium may protect against stroke, and keeping sodium-potassium balance is important for maintaining low blood pressure (reducing sodium and increasing potassium).

High sodium intake is linked to high blood pressure.

Sulfur: Role in the Body & Benefits

Role in the Body
Sulfur is required for the synthesis of a number of amino acids, and it protects against radiation and air pollution. It is also necessary for the keeping the integrity of the skin intact.

Dietary Sources
Good sources of sulfur include eggs, fish, milk and dairy products. It is also found in onions, cabbage, beans, garlic, kale, soybeans, and turnips.

Who Is at Risk for Deficiency?
Deficiency is unheard of.

Because of its protective role against harmful substances, it may slow the aging process.

No known toxicity.

Magnesium: Role in the Body & Benefits

Role in the Body
Magnesium is necessary for healthy bones and teeth, nerve transmission, muscle relaxation, and needed to produce hundreds of enzymes. It's involved in regulating blood pressure and keeps your heart beating. It also helps in calcium and potassium uptake.

Dietary Sources
Good sources include nuts, beans, dark green leafy vegetables, milk, soymilk, bananas, whole grains and seafood.

Who Is at Risk for Deficiency?
You may be at risk if you are an alcoholic, have diabetes, kidney disease, or have diarrhea, use laxatives often or vomit excessively (as in bulimia).

May prevent sudden heart attacks, heart arrhythmias, lower blood pressure, prevent and lessen the severity of asthma attacks, may help diabetics control their blood sugar, may reduce migraine attacks, and along with calcium and vitamin D, prevents osteoporosis.

At high doses magnesium can be toxic. If you suffer from congestive heart failure, you should not take magnesium supplements.