Vitamins, minerals and supplements are part of healthy food intake, but even with the best intentions there may not be enough of them contained in a balanced diet.
Vitamins have long been recognized as an essential part in the nutrition team.
From the tentative gropings, where sailors recognized that limes prevented scurvy, to the solid research data surrounding vitamin C by Linus Pauling, we have come a long way.
There is a catalogue of vitamin preparations, minerals and supplements available to us, and vitamin sales are no longer the domain of health food stores: supermarkets have a section of vitamins and nutritional supplements, and the variety can be confusing to the consumer. Yet it is a fallacy to believe, that we must acquire all the varieties in capsule or tablet form. With proper food intake we get the essential vitamins and minerals, and we are going back to Hippocrates again, who suggested that food be our medicine. With today’s knowledge base we have a fairly clear understanding how vitamin supplementation prolongs life. Life expectancy seems to be determined genetically and depends on the telomere length. This is a small appendix to the chromosomes in each cell, which assists in cell division and stability. At birth our telomeres are the longest, but with each cell division the telomeres shorten a tiny little bit. There are two mechanisms that can elongate telomeres:
1) Ref. 9 has provided the first evidence on a large population basis that daily vitamin supplements led to 5.1% longer telomeres when compared to people who did not take supplements. This translated to 9.8 years less aging when compared to the population with no supplement use. The same study also found that micronutrients from food were not related to telomere length with the exception of vitamin C and E. The authors (Xu et al.) concluded that multivitamin use is associated with slower biological aging due to longer telomeres.
2) A second mechanism known to elongate telomeres is calorie restriction. In April 2014 a new study done with rhesus monkeys that were 30% calorie restricted (very similar to the Zone diet or the Mediterranean diet in humans) for 25 years lived much longer than the control animals that were allowed unrestricted food intake. The control animals had a 2.9-fold higher risk of dying prematurely.
It was known before that in our lifetime each cell can only perform so many cell divisions (the “Hayflick limit”).Another life limiting factor is the state of our mitochondria (thanks to biology.about.com for this link), which are particles within each living cell that provides energy, participates in cell communication and in our body’s metabolism. We are born with a set of mitochondria inherited directly from our mother and grandmother (non-Mendelian genetic transmission). Although our father contributed 50% to the cell nucleus DNA (Mendelian inheritance), this was not the case with regard to the DNA of the mitochondria, of which 100% is derived from the ovum of our mother. The reason for this is that only the head of the sperm entered the ovum upon fertilization of the egg. The sperm’s tail, which does contain a few mitochondria for energy did not. This is the reason why longevity is transmitted by ways of the maternal genetic line from generation to generation. Unfortunately the DNA of the mitochondria comes only as one maternal set making it more vulnerable to damage by free radicals. The DNA of the cell nucleus comes in double strands (one from your father, one from your mother) and there are some repair kits included in it that come in handy when there is minor damage to the DNA by free radicals. Glutathione (thanks to upload.wikimedia.org for this image) from the liver and vitamin C from food and supplements provide powerful antioxidant activity that supports the cells and the mitochondria. The cells in the body that contain most mitochondria per cell are the tissues of the brain, heart, muscles, liver and kidneys. This may be the reason why with aging (meaning loss of mitochondria in tissues) people often die from Alzheimer’s disease, heart attacks, liver failure, kidney failure and falls related to muscle weakness.
Under the best of circumstances (good genetics, healthy life-style, good nutrition, regular moderate exercise, and natural hormone supplementation to prevent premature aging) we are still limited to a life expectancy of not more than about 120 years. If you incorporate the supplements listed below your chances are much better to reach this goal due to the positive effects on your telomeres and mitochondria.
Preventing chronic inflammation
As stated before (see my YouTube video on the home page) chronic inflammation can cause cardiovascular disease, diabetes, arthritis, cancer, lung disease (asthma, COPD), neurological disease (Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, possibly MS) and autoimmune diseases. All of the anti-oxidant vitamins and the detoxification described below will aid in preventing chronic inflammation. However, it is also important to eliminate or limit sugar intake and starchy food intake (noodles, rice, potatoes, bread, and cakes) to prevent insulin hyper secretion, which would cause the metabolic syndrome and lead to chronic inflammation. The physician can order a fasting insulin level to check for hyperinsulinism. Supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids (molecularly distilled fish oil) will help the anti-inflammatory process as will vitamin D3 supplementation. Recently two studies have shown that vitamin D is useful in preventing breast cancer, lymphoma and colorectal cancer, but also in preventing prostate cancer.
Before you think of supplementing, the body needs to be detoxified so that the nutrients and supplements can access the cells and do their supportive work. Books like “Breakthrough” (Ref.8) by Suzanne Somers have reviewed newer insights of antiaging medicine. This points out the importance of detoxifying the body from heavy metals like mercury, lead and cadmium. Chelation therapy with vitamin C and Glutathione, or with EDTA can be used to remove some of these heavy toxic metals (pollution).
Undeniably there are times where vitamins should be supplemented: patients with pernicious anemia benefit from vitamin B 12 injections. Pregnant mothers are encouraged to take prenatal vitamin supplements. A crucial supplement in pregnancy is folic acid, which reduces the likelihood of spina bifida in the baby. It is further known that in infancy the baby will not get enough vitamin D in milk, and accordingly the vitamin is administered as drops in a bit of formula or baby food. Vitamin C has also been associated with benefits in the cold and flu season.
Multivitamin preparations are of importance, where our food intake is just not quite enough to meet the demands: pregnancy, as discussed before, is such a situation, but breastfeeding a baby puts high demands on the nursing mother as well.
Anybody recovering from an illness will benefit likewise from a multivitamin supplement, and whoever is not eating properly, which can be the case during stress or travel, will do well using a well balanced vitamin supplement. Vitamins are not miracle drugs. They can boost our resistance to illness and contribute to our well being. Consider them like insurance. They can be your ally, but you are still having to do your part with good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle. Do not fall into the trap of starting your day with a big array of supplements. More is usually not better, and exaggerated doses of vitamins can be harmful: for instance, huge doses of vitamin A will have toxic effects on your liver, which is not exactly a prescription for health and energy. Too much calcium can significantly raise your risk for developing kidney stones. It does not mean that you now turn around and avoid any vitamin supplement. What you need is balance and moderation, whether it comes to food intake or to supplements. This has been only a short overview regarding vitamins and supplements and this is summarized in the table below as well. However, there are very good other websites that discuss this topic in much more detail. Here is one that gives an overview regarding vitamins.(thanks to www.cnn.com for this link).
One of the more interesting new developments is the supplementation with amino acids that are supposed to help the body build up the human growth hormone (HGH), which may postpone aging. However, other literature is refuting this saying that exercise can trigger the production of your own HGH in the presence of normal protein intake. Protein is broken down into amino acids in the gut during the digestive process and the body absorbs the amino acids and produces HGH in the pituitary gland. Exercise has long been recognized as a factor in the HGH production causing a longer life.
As stated before, most of your vitamins will come from your food. There are some vitamins, which are like a form of insurance contributing to your health (Ref. 1, p. 276):
Vitamins and supplements, your basic “life insurance”
|Fish Oil||important for omega-3 fatty acids, can be taken in capsule form or as oil; 400 mg of EPA (Eicosapentanoic Acid) and ca. 200 mg of DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid) per capsule, take two per day. Read labels,often omega-6 mixed in; omega-3 must be the major part of it and should be molecularly distilled to remove cancer producing herbicides, pesticides and heavy metals|
|Vitamin E||most studies show that it is not what it used to promise: support for a healthy heart . It used to be recommened to take 400 IU per day. Unless you had a heart attack or have a cardiac risk, you likely do not need it; ask your doctor. Newer studies say that 400 IU per day is still useful when taken together with other antioxidant vitamins (synergistic action).|
|Vitamin C||the “anti-oxidant”vitamin; associated with protection against colds and flus in winter, promotes wound healing. Get some Ester-C (it is better absorbed), or get some vitamin C tablets. Take 1000 mg per day.|
|Calcium and Magnesium||important for bone health in post-menopausal females. There were some reports in 2008 where concerns of hardening of coronary arteries were voiced, which questions the usefulness of this. Bioidentical hormone replacement is an alternative. I favor taking 250 mg of magnesium (as magnesium stearate) per day and letting the body select all of the calcium it needs by eating a portion of goat yoghurt per day (which contains calcium) . Vit. K2 (see below) also helps.|
|Vitamin B complex||known to be the “stress” vitamin; amply found in vegetables; stress is better managed by relaxation exercises and regular physical exercises. When your diet does not contain enough greens and vegetables, take it once per day.|
|Multivitamin supplements||Often recommended when nutrition is not adequate (or with pregnancy, breast feeding or recovering from illness). Vitamin A (about 3,500 IU), Vitamin B1, B2, B3, B5, B6 and B12 as well as folic acid and Biotin would be useful to take as a multivitamin supplement as tablets or in liquid form (made from powder) for anybody on a daily basis|
|Resveratrol||Antioxidants which occur in the skins of grapes, often combined with Ellagic Acid (e.g. in trophic); a powerful anti-oxidant, prevents heart disease and cancers. 200 mg per day|
|Coenzyme Q10||200 mg once per day up to the age of 50; 400mg per day when over 50. Supports heart health and is vital for cellular energy production (supports mitochondria)|
|Vitamin D3||This has been recently found to be very powerful in preventing a multitude of cancers; take 2000 IU or more (best 5000 IU) once per day|
|D-Ribose||this is a special sugar; a flat teaspoon once per day increases energy and endurance. In fibromyalgia it may give some relief for pain in higher doses (a flat teaspoon two to three times per day)|
|Melatonine||important for the body to recuperate, very valuable to enhance restful sleep and a powerful anti-oxidant . It actually is a hormone from the pineal gland and it makes other hormones work better (thyroid and steroid hormones, important in anti-aging medicine). 1 to 3 mg at bedtime. Safe to take up to 10 mg per day. You may experience nightmares for up to 1 week initially when starting on it (harmless).|
|L- Carnosine||good support to cell function and assisting neurological function. 100 mg to 250 mg per day can be recommended. Often sold as 500 mg capsules; in this case the content of the capsules can be divided into two halves.|
|L-Carnitine||L-Carnitine: This is not an antioxidant, but a good support for muscles, including the heart. Two 500 mg capsules per day are used for anti-aging|
|Alpha Lipoic Acid||100 mg per day are a desirable addition to the regimen you are already taking|
|Phosphatidyl Serine||Probably one of the best weapons against cognitive decline. For prevention purposes in persons without cognitive decline 100 mg per day. 200 to 300 mg for early Alzheimer patients. With the higher doses a bitter taste sensation can occur (harmless), simply reduce the dose.|
|Vitamin K2||A key vitamin that prevents hardening of the arteries and osteoporosis. It has been neglected for too long. Take 100 or 200 micrograms per day. This article (thanks to www.lef.org for this link) explains in detail how it works.|
|Io-Plex SR||12.5 mg capsule twice per day. This Iodine preparation from Kripp’s Pharmacy, Vancouver, BC contains 5 mg of elemental iodine and 7.5 mg of iodide per capsule. Ref. 10 explains that iodine prevents cell damage from chlorinated water, from bromide contamination of our environment like hot tubs or from pasta and bread (products made from flour that has bromide in it). If you eat bread, burgers, pasta etc. consider starting iodine supplements.|
|Vitamin B-2 (riboflavin)||One tablet (100 mg) per day. Together with niacinamide and iodide it stabilizes the cell metabolism. See Ref. 10, page 168.|
|Vitamin B-3 (niacinamide)||One tablet (500 mg) per day. Together with vitamin B-2 it stimulates oxidative phosphorylation and ATP production (energy production) within the mitochondria of all cells. See Ref. 10, page 168.|
The list of vitamins and supplements may look slightly intimidating at first glance. It may be easiest to gradually build up the supplementation program. If a line-up of capsules is simply too much to stomach in one setting, it is best to distribute the supplementation over the day: one helping with breakfast and one with dinner. It is important to stay compliant. Haphazardly taking or forgetting the supplements will not do much for you. Remember that taking these high potency supplements along with nutritious food will defend your body from the aging effect of free radicals.
There are other supplements that can be useful in addition to the basic set discussed above. It depends on what you need. For instance, if your nerves are on edge easily, your brain may need more 5-HTP (5-hydroxy-tryptophan). The brain converts 5-HTP from food or supplements into serotonin, which is a major brain neurotransmitter. Serotonin is the “feel good” hormone that fights depression, but it also plays a role in overcoming sleep disturbances, regulates signals of hunger/satiety and is involved in relieving anxiety. 5-HTP can also enhance libido.
If you’re finding yourself constantly tired, get your iron levels checked. If your doctor confirms that you’re iron deficient, a daily iron supplement is the easiest way to get your iron levels back on track and help fight fatigue for the long term. Iron deficiency anemia is one of those conditions, where supplementation may be necessary.
How do vitamin and mineral supplements work?
There are 5 major processes that lead to pre-mature aging: oxidant stress, inflammation, loss of mitochondrial function, insulin resistance and loss of membrane integrity. There is a broad overlap of various vitamins and minerals in terms of these processes, which makes it safer in terms of avoiding pre-mature aging (Ref.11).
Here is a quick run-down what the various vitamins and minerals do:
- Anti-oxidants (fight oxidant stress): B vitamins (B1, B3, B6, B12 and folate), vitamin C, acetyl-L-carnitine, alpha-lipoic acid, bioflavonoid, garlic, ginger root extract, Gingko biloba, ginseng, green tea extract, L-glutathione, magnesium, manganese, melatonin, N-acetyl cysteine, potassium, rutin, selenium, vitamin E, and coenzyme Q10.
- Anti-inflammatory action (fighting inflammation): Vitamin D, alpha-lipoic acid, bioflavonoid, garlic, ginger root extract, ginseng, green tea extract, melatonin, rutin, selenium, cod liver oil (omega-3), coenzyme Q10, and flax seed oil.
- Preserving mitochondrial function: B vitamins (B1, B3, B6, B12 and folate), acetyl-L-carnitine, alpha-lipoic acid, ginger root extract, ginseng, selenium, and coenzyme Q10.
- The following prevent insulin resistance: B vitamins (B1, B3, B6, B12 and folate), vitamin D, alpha-lipoic acid, beta-carotene, chromium picolinate, garlic, ginger root extract, ginseng, green tea extract, magnesium, manganese, potassium, and selenium.
- The following are providing membrane integrity: beta-carotene, garlic, ginger root extract, ginseng, selenium, cod liver oil (omega-3), and flax seed oil.
- Partial methylation defects can be cured with B vitamins as this study has shown.
You can see that even when you take only part of all of the vitamins and minerals listed, your body’s integrity will still be protected.
Discuss supplementation and any questions surrounding the use of supplements with your health care provider before you embark on a program. Once you have decided to purchase supplements, read labels carefully. Staff at health food stores can also be a helpful source of information.
More information about vitamin C is available at Vitamin C Lowers Breast Cancer Death Rates.
1. B. Sears: “The age-free zone”.Regan Books, Harper Collins, 2000. Also see Dr. Sears’ site.
2. B. Sears: “Zone perfect meals in minutes”. Regan Books, Harper Also see Dr. Sears’ site.
3. B.J. Wilcox, D.C. Willcox and M. Suzuki: “The Okinawa Program.” Clarkson Potter,2001, N.Y., U.S.A.
4. E.L. Rossi: The psychobiology of mind-body healing. Norton &Co., 1986, N.Y., U.S.A.
5. Vitamins and Foods. Audio-Digest Family Practice Vol 49, Issue 29, Aug.7, 2001.
6. P.C. McGraw: Life strategies. 1999, Simon&Schuster Source, N.Y., U.S.A.
7. B. Sears: “The top 100 zone foods”. Regan Books, Harper Collins, 2001. Also see Dr. Sears’ site.
8. Suzanne Somers: “Breakthrough” Eight Steps to Wellness– Life-altering Secrets from Today’s Cutting-edge Doctors”, Crown Publishers, 2008
9. Q. Xu et al. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 2009; 89: 1857-1863.
10. David Brownstein, MD: “Iodine. Why you need it, why you can’t live without it”. 4th edition. Medical Alternatives Press. West Bloomfield, Michigan, 2009.