What You Need to Know about Multivitamins

(Health Secrets) Have you had seven to nine servings of fruits and vegetables today? This is the amount recommended by the National Cancer Institute and many other health experts, up from 5 servings just a few years ago.  If you are wondering why the recommendation keeps increasing, it’s because the quality of the food found in supermarkets keeps decreasing. As the recommended amount of fresh produce needed to maintain health gets larger, it becomes more difficult to meet it.  Are multivitamins the answer?

Let’s make one thing clear. Food should always be the foundation of your nutrition. In other words, taking multivitamins does not make up for skipped meals or for eating a diet of nutritionally devoid foods. Raw, whole foods provide the best synergies of nutrients and create in you a life force that can never be replicated by swallowing some capsules. Food should be your first source of nutrition, and supplements should be what the name implies; something you take to supplement your high quality food intake.

That said, many prestigious authorities have recently come out saying that taking multivitamins is absolutely essential for good health, particularly in light of the state of the food supply today. We have widespread depletion of minerals in crop soils that results in people having mineral deficiencies from eating even the best food. But most Americans don’t eat the best food or anything close to it. They eat processed, refined, transported, stored, cooked and packaged food that has completely lost its integrity and in many cases is almost worthless.

Take broccoli for instance. If you have access to locally grown organic broccoli right after it’s picked and you eat it very lightly steamed, it may be missing some trace minerals, but it will provide you with much of the nutrition it was meant to give. But if you buy factory-farmed broccoli from your local supermarket’s produce counter, you will be buying broccoli that was grown in soil virtually devoid of minerals except for a few from added chemical fertilizer. And that broccoli will have traveled as much as 2,000 miles and spent up to a week or more in cold storage. Take it home  throw it in the microwave, and when you take it out, up to 98% of its anti-cancer nutrients will have been destroyed.

Just a century ago, food contained all the nutrients humans required to perform at their best and to live long and healthy lives. Now, even meat is not what it once was because it comes from factory-farms where animals have no quality of life and are therefore unable to reach their nutritional potential. Today’s factory-farmed animals are sick and diseased, and treated with antibiotics. They are also treated with drugs to make them gain weight. The food they are fed is often not part of their natural diets.

Comprehensive report says everyone should take a multivitamin

“Consistent use of multivitamins and other key supplements can promote good health and help prevent disease,” says a report released by the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) back in 2002. Their work documented that ongoing use of multivitamins (preferably with minerals) positively impacts all age groups ranging from elderly to the prenatal.

Their 100 page report titled The Benefits of Nutritional Supplements reviewed more than a decade’s worth of significant studies measuring the health benefits of multivitamins and other nutritional supplements including antioxidant Vitamins C and E, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids from fish oils, Vitamin D, and B vitamins.

While it is never too late to start incorporating supplements into a healthy lifestyle, there is compelling evidence that consistent, long-term use provides the strongest benefits, according to CRN vice president Annette Dickinson, Ph.D. For the cost of basic multivitamins, you can make a sound investment in good health.

Highlights of the CRN report include:

  • Birth defects could be reduced by 70% if potential mothers used multivitamins with folic acid.
  • Routine use of multivitamins with minerals by the elderly could improve immune function and reduce infectious disease.
  • Calcium and Vitamin D could reduce the rate of hip fractures among the elderly by 20%.
  • A prevention oriented approach to health and diet is very cost effective. If the occurrence of cardiovascular disease, stroke and hip fracture was delayed by five years, U.S. health care cost savings would equal $89 billion annually.

Even the American Medical Association is finally getting on board

A landmark report recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association announced that all adults should take a multivitamin supplement to help prevent chronic diseases. This is an eye opening departure from their conventional wisdom that has always declared people get enough nutrition from their food.

Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) is just the beginning

The RDI for vitamins is a relic left over from the days when people had rickets and scurvy, diseases that indicated gross vitamin deficiencies. The RDI identifies the minimum amount of a vitamin needed to prevent such diseases. RDIs are a long way from the optimal amounts of nutrients that are needed to prevent degenerative diseases, a group of diseases that occur after prolonged periods of sub-optimal nutrient intake.

The top three killers of Americans are cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes. These degenerative diseases occur as a direct result of poor diet and lifestyle choices. Deficiencies of vitamins and minerals over time create a cascade of events in the body that trigger these diseases. But this downhill spiral can be stopped by using multivitamins on a daily basis.

Simple blood test tells it all

Want to know where you stand in the nutritional scheme of things? The next time you see your doctor, ask him to order homocysteine and C-reactive protein tests. Elevated levels of either of these means the time you have to make changes in your life is running out.

Excessive homocysteine, an unfriendly amino acid found in the blood stream, means you are short on folate, the B vitamin that helps construct and protect your DNA. Damaged DNA is what sparks cancer. Too much homocysteine promotes heart disease and many symptoms of aging, such as Alzheimer’s disease. A recent study found that whether persons with mild cognitive impairment develop Alzheimer’s depends on the accumulation of toxic metabolites such as homocysteine   Other studies have found that taking multivitamins containing the B vitamins can lower homocysteine levels.

An elevated level of C-reactive protein (CRP) has shown in research to be a predictor of heart attacks. CRP measures inflammation, and chronic inflammation is associated with several disease conditions, including heart disease, stroke and cancer. A study done in 2003 found that multivitamin use can lower CRP levels by 14 percent on average, a highly significant amount.

Multivitamin use regularly for 10 years reduces the risk for colon and rectal cancer by 30 percent, according to a study. Other studies have found that taking multivitamins containing Vitamin D can keep cancer cells from dividing and multiplying. Vitamins D, E and folic acid have been linked to lowered risk of both colon and breast cancer.

More research adds to the pile of evidence

Scientists in Norway have recently released a study that shows the use of multivitamins with minerals decreases the risk of death among lung cancer patients. Meanwhile, other scientists at the University of New Mexico have found that multivitamin use offers protection against gene methylation. Excessive methylation is one of the early detection measures of lung cancer. This effect even extends to smokers.

In research from Japan, scientists have found that zinc supplementation appears effective in reducing anger and depression.

And scientists from the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences at the National Institutes of Health, have recently reported that multivitamin use strengthens telomeres. Telomeres are active in keeping chromosomes healthy.

Multivitamin use may slow the aging process

Multivitamins contain several antioxidants, including Vitamins C and E, and beta carotene (pro vitamin A).  Antioxidants fight off potentially dangerous molecules called free radicals that occur as byproducts of metabolism. Free radicals run around in the body like loose cannons, causing such havoc as altered DNA and oxidation. Free radicals play a part in cancer and other degenerative diseases.  They also speed up the aging process, much like leaving metal out in the rain to rust speeds up its deterioration.  Antioxidants seek out free radicals and neutralize them, stopping them before they begin their destructive paths.

More multivitamin highlights

In addition to the vitamins and minerals most people are aware of, multivitamins contain others that we seldom think about.

Vitamin K helps the absorption of calcium. Studies have suggested that Vitamin K is necessary for the prevention of osteoporosis and the loss of bone density. Several human trials have shown that Vitamin K has anticancer effects both as prevention and as treatment. It prevents arteries from hardening, and thus helps prevent heart attack and heart disease.

Lesser known minerals that should be in your multivitamin include zinc and selenium. Both of these play a large role in prevention and treatment of breast and prostate cancer. Zinc is necessary for protein synthesis, and underlies collagen formation. Collagen keeps wrinkles away and keeps you looking younger. Zinc deficiency is signaled by hair loss and rippled and peeling nails. Selenium is protective of the liver, and works as a powerful chelator of toxic heavy metals such as mercury.

Boron is essential for bone health and muscle growth. It enhances brain function, promotes alertness, and plays a role in utilization of energy from fats and sugar.

Chromium helps the body maintain normal blood sugar levels and can be an important measure for preventing type 2 diabetes.

Iodine helps the metabolism of excess fat and is needed for a healthy thyroid gland. Insufficient iodine has been linked to breast cancer, fatigue and weight gain.

Magnesium is the catalyst for the enzymes involved in energy production. It helps the body use calcium and potassium. Magnesium deficiency interferes with the transmission of nerve and muscle impulses, and causes poor mood and irritability. Dizziness, muscle twitching, and constipation mean you are low on magnesium. Magnesium prevents the build up of calcium in arteries that can result in blockage.

Manganese is used in energy production and is needed for normal bone growth. It is used in the formation of cartilage and lubricating fluid in the joints. Arthritis symptoms signal manganese deficiency.  Manganese is needed for protein and fat metabolism, healthy nerves and immune system, and blood sugar regulation.

Molybdenum strengths teeth and normalizes cell functions. Molybdenum deficiency is associated with mouth and gum cancers and other oral disorders.

Potassium regulates the nervous system and helps keep the heart rhythm regular. It helps prevent stroke and keeps muscles contracting smoothly. It is needed to work with sodium to control the body’s water balance. Potassium deficiency is a significant factor in the development of high blood pressure. Potassium regulates the transfer of nutrients through cell membranes. It works with magnesium to help prevent kidney stones. Potassium deficiency is characterized by excessively dry skin, chills, cognitive impairment, constipation, depression, diarrhea, diminished reflexes, insatiable thirst, heart fluctuations, glucose intolerance, high cholesterol, insomnia, headaches, and salt retention.

Vanadium is essential for cellular metabolism and the formation of bone and teeth. It is active in producing a good cholesterol ratio and has the ability to improve insulin utilization, resulting in improved glucose tolerance. Vanadium deficiency is linked to cardiovascular and kidney disease and impaired reproductive ability.

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