It sure would be convenient if a vitamin supplement could take the place of real food, but unfortunately, that is not how we are designed. We are designed to eat real food, mostly vegetables [and some fruit] throughout the day. That does not mean we do not need supplements. I’m with Dr. Walter Willett [Harvard School of Public health] who agrees that supplements do play an important role of filling in the gaps we have in our diet due to lifestyle choices or deficits in our food supply.
If you think you might quality as someone who DOES NOT NEED supplements. Heres the check list.
– You eat lots of plant foods, grown in mineral rich soil;
– You exercise at least 30 minutes a day
– You do not smoke
– You do not drink alcohol in excess
– You are not pregnant
– You are not over 50.
– You do not have a disease that contributes to malabsorption
– You are not taking a prescription drug that depletes important nutrients.
Most of us do not fit that description so supplementation might be necessary.
Sifting through the forest of supplement options can be confusing. Here are some basic guidelines for supplement derived from the work of Dr. Walter Willet, and the Council for Responsible Nutrition. These guidelines are general. Seek the oversight of a knowledgeable health professional regarding specific supplement usage.
The Experts say – most of us can benefit from taking a multi-vitamin
Although it hasn’t been proven that a daily multivitamin will lead to better health for well-nourished people, most American, most of us are not well-nourished. A daily multivitamin supplement ensures an adequate intake of several micronutrients that are not always present in the diet in optimal amounts.
Do seek out a high quality multivitamin supplements that contains at least the RDA [Recommended daily allowance] for folic acid, niacin, pantothenic acid, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, chromium, copper, iodine, manganese, molybdenum, and zinc, plus antioxidant support such as vitamin C and vitamin E and Calcium.
Willett also advises that your multivitamin contains at least 1000 IU of Vitamin D. Many of us our deficient in this vitamin [an important pre-cursor to life-supporting hormones] For those of us in the High Country there is insufficient ultraviolet light in our lives to synthesize it naturally. Slathering on sunscreen and avoiding sun exposure to prevent skin damage also prevents vitamin D synthesis. Even if we are in the sun, during our retirement years, our ability to synthesize vitamin d declines with age.
The following are also strongly advised under certain condition:
Omega 3 : If you are eating wild [not farmed] cold-water fish 3 times a week, you might not need to supplement, as that will give you your minimum requirement. If you are not or you have a specific condition, you might consider supplementation. Omega 3 has two vital components [EPA and DHA] to support the health of your heart and your brain is most easily obtained through a high quality fish oil supplement.
Calcium [with magnesium and Vitamin D for proper absorption]: Dr. Walter Willett suggests that rather than hazard the issues involved in a dairy-rich diet or if you are not eating enough food based sources such as green leafy vegetables, a calcium supplement might be advisable.
LET THE BUYER BEWARE
Not all supplements are created equal. The quality and absorbability of supplements vary widely for several reasons:
To make sure what is on the label is in the bottle. Your supplement should be USP and NSF certified. These nonprofit organizations certify that the vitamins are contaminant free and made according to good manufacturing practices.
DISSOLVABILITY AND ABSORBABILITY:
The absorption of some vitamins is actually based on and improved by other nutrients. Calcium absorption, for instance, is increased by the presence of vitamin D. Zinc and vitamin C are known to decrease the absorption and retention of copper in the body. A high intake of calcium may decrease magnesium absorption. Most high quality multivitamin will nutrients that balance each other for proper absorption.
Before nutrients from a supplement can be absorbed, the supplement must be dissolved in the gut. A way to avoid the dissolubility issue altogether would be to use supplements in powder form and dissolve them in some form of liquid
RECCOMMENDED READING: The Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating – Eat, Drink and Be Healthy by Dr. Walter Willett MD