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Is it really necessary to take daily vitamin and mineral supplements?

We’re deep into flu season and so many of us start to ramp up our daily doses as a result. This leads us to ask some interesting questions such as…

  • Are there any risks associated with taking too many vitamins?
  • Which vitamins should we be taking, and where should they be obtained?
  • What kind of benefits can we expect from taking vitamin and mineral supplements?

These are the kind of questions we’ll be discussing in the following post.

History of Vitamin Supplementation

The health of our bodies depends on getting the optimal amount of vitamins and minerals. There are two ways to reach those optimal levels, through food or supplementation.

Our ancestors recognized there was a direct link between what they ate and how they felt and they relied on their diets to stay healthy. One example of this is the ancient Egyptians who discovered that eating liver allowed them to see better at night. Now we know that having a Vitamin A deficiency can cause blindness and that liver is a rich source of it. Well, I don’t know about you, but I’d rather take a supplement rather than eat liver!

In the 1700’s, it became apparent that sailors were developing a disease that resulted in gum bleeding, poor wound healing, severe pain and sometimes death. Halfway through that century, Dr. James Lind recommended that to remedy this condition that the British Royal Navy use lemons and limes to address this. British sailors came to be known as “limeys”. Today we know that this disorder as Scurvy, which is a disorder that comes from a deficiency in vitamin C, and we know that citrus fruits are high in vitamin C.

Food manufacturers in the mid-1800’s began processing rice by removing the outer husk. With the increased consumption of white rice, a new disease began to emerge. Characterized by muscle wasting, weakness of the legs, difficulty walking, and mental confusion, it was labeled Beriberi. A scientist named Christiaan Eijkman also noticed that chickens were showing similar symptoms. As it happened these chickens were being fed white rice. Once the chickens began consuming unprocessed rice they recovered! Now we know that Beriberi is a result of having severe vitamin B1, or Thiamine deficiency. In 1912, Dr. Casimir Funk examined rice bran and isolated a complex of micronutrients therein and called them “vitamines”, now known as vitamins, such as Pellagra (vitamin B3 deficiency) and Rickets (vitamin D deficiency.

Fast forward to today, and the average American diet is packed with processed, genetically modified and nutrient deficient foods.

This means that it is particularly difficult to acquire the number of vitamins and minerals in our diets that are required for good health. This leads us to a very important question…

Will vitamin supplements help fill in the nutritional gaps?

What is a Vitamin?

A vitamin is an organic compound essential for good health, taken in limited amounts.

Generally, “vitamin” is a term used to encompass 4 groups of essential micro-nutrients that our body needs:

  • Vitamins
  • Essential amino acids (needed in greater amounts than vitamins)
  • Essential fatty acids
  • Minerals

Vitamins have a diverse set of biochemical functions. Vitamin D, for example, can provide hormone-like functions, some are antioxidants, such as vitamin C and E, and Biotin is integral to making fatty acids.

Vitamins can be categorized into two types:

  • Fat soluble
  • Water Soluble

This pertains to how the vitamin is absorbed, stored and removed from the body. Water-soluble vitamins dissolve easily and any excesses are excreted in urine, whereas fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the liver and fatty tissues for future use. It is important to follow your doctor’s recommendations or manufacturer’s directions on dosing as taking too many fat-soluble vitamins can be toxic. Over a prolonged period of use, even water-soluble vitamins can cause damage

VITAMINS:  Currently, there are 13 that are recognized universally

Vitamin NameSolubilityDeficiency Disease
Vitamin AFat SolubleNight blindness, hyperkeratosis (thickening of the outer layer of skin), and keratomalacia (eye disorder that leads to drying and clouding of the cornea)
Vitamin B1Water SolubleBeriberi (mental confusion, muscle wasting), Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome (chronic memory disorder)
Vitamin B2Water SolubleAriboflavinosis (sores on the mouth), Glossitis (Tongue inflammation), Angular Stomatitis(inflammation or cracks at the corners of the mouth)
Vitamin B3Water SolublePellagra (inflamed skin, sores in mouth, diarrhea, dementia)
Vitamin B5Water SolubleParesthesia ( “pins & needles” sensation in hands, arms, legs & feet)
Vitamin B6Water SolubleAnemia peripheral neuropathy (severe anemia that can lead to nerve damage & degeneration of the spinal cord)
Vitamin B7Water SolubleDermatitis (skin rash), Enteritis (inflammation of the small intestine)
Vitamin B9Water SolubleMegaloblastic anemia (larger than normal red blood cells)
Vitamin B12Water SolublePernicious anemia (lower red blood cell count)
Vitamin CWater SolubleScurvy (bleeding gums, lethargy, impaired wound healing)
Vitamin DFat SolubleRickets (weakened muscles, pain or tenderness in bones), Osteomalacia (softening of the bones)
Vitamin EFat SolubleDeficiency is rare, but can cause sterility in males, miscarriage, anemia in newborns
Vitamin KFat SolubleBleeding diathesis (abnormal tendency to bleed)

Minerals: There are 5 major minerals needed by the human body

MineralSome Key FunctionsSources
CalciumNecessary for healthy bones and teeth, blood clotting and blood pressure, nerve functionDairy, canned fish with bones, broccoli, legumes, mustard greens
PhosphorusPresent in every cell of the body. Needed for healthy teeth & bonesMeat, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy products
PotassiumNeeded for fluid balance, muscle contraction and nerve transmissionMeats, dairy products, fresh fruits & vegetables, whole grains, legumes
SodiumNeeded for fluid balance, muscle contraction and nerve transmissionTable salt
MagnesiumNeeded for making protein, immune system health, nerve transmission and muscle contractionNuts & seeds, legumes, leafy green vegetables, seafood, artichokes

There are lingering minerals called trace elements that have a particular biochemical function. Although the body doesn’t require as many trace minerals as it does essential minerals, they are equally as important.

MineralSome Key FunctionsSources
IronNeeded for energy metabolism, found in red blood cellsOrgan meats, red meat, fish, shellfish, poultry, egg yolks, legumes, dried fruit, dark green leafy vegetables
ZincNeeded for making protein, aids in taste perception, wound healing, fetal development, immune system healthMeats, fish, poultry, whole grains
ManganeseAids in metabolism, bone density. An antioxidantNuts & seeds, tea, legumes, leafy green vegetables
MolybdenumAids in breaking down fat, protein and starch moleculesLegumes, leafy greens, milk, liver
IodineFound in thyroid , aids in regulating growth, development and metabolismSeafood, foods grown in iodine rich soil
SeleniumAn antioxidantMeats, seafood, grains
CopperNeeded for iron metabolismNuts & seeds, whole grains, legumes, organ meats
ChromiumRegulates blood sugarWhole grains, nuts, cheese, liver

For normal functions pertaining to body tissue Essential Fatty Acids are vital. There are two fatty acids that are not manufactured by the human body and can only be obtained through food or supplementation.

NameSourcesSymptoms of Deficiency
Linoleic Acid (LA), Omega 6Nuts & seeds, eggs, animal proteinsDry, scaly or flaky skin. Cracked fingertips. Small bumps on backs of arms
Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA), Omega 3Found in plant oils, nuts & seedsSoft, peeling or brittle nails, memory loss, fatigue, inflammation, attention disorders

Essential Amino Acids can be regarded as the building blocks of life. There are 9 that can only be obtained through food or supplementation. They function to repair body tissue, break down food, provide a source of energy for the body, and build muscle.

  • Threonine
  • Tryptophan
  • Leucine
  • Lysine
  • Methionine
  • Histidine
  • Isoleucine
  • Phenylalanine
  • Valine

Some of the symptoms that indicate when there is a deficiency of Essential Amino Acids:

  • Difficulty building muscle mass
  • Poor concentration
  • Low energy levels and fatigue
  • Muscle, bone & joint pain
  • Mood swings
  • Trouble losing weight

There are also a couple types we won’t be discussing, called nonessential amino acids and conditional amino acids as these are produced by the body even when they are not found in our diet. Conditional amino acids are usually only necessary when you are ill.

Is it safe to take Vitamin Supplements?

Were you aware…?

The FDA does not require manufacturers of dietary supplements to verify that they are safe or provide that the claims listed on their labels are accurate. The FDA does, however, keep a look out for adverse event reporting on a dietary supplement once it is circulating in the market.

A bit worrisome, right? This can leave one facing a dilemma. If your diet doesn’t provide vital nutrients that our body needs, as is the case for the average American, and the safety of over-the-counter supplements are in question, what do we do?

Consider medical-grade nutraceuticals…

Medical-grade nutraceuticals are dietary supplements that are comprised of the highest-quality ingredients available. In controlled clinical trials, they have proven effective and are manufactured in controlled facilities which are specifically designed for having the highest therapeutic doses available.

Determining for yourself what supplements to take is no easy task.

As we mentioned earlier, there’s a potential that supplements taken in great quantity or taken unnecessarily can have toxic results. Taking supplements that aren’t necessary can also prove burdensome for your wallet. Some people can otherwise leaf a healthy lifestyle but still don’t feel their best, so in that case, nutritional supplements may provide the answer.

How do we know much to take, and what to take?

Micronutrient Testing

This straightforward blood test is used to assess how efficiently your body metabolizes minerals, amino and essential fatty acids, vitamins, antioxidants, and metabolites. The results of the test can help your doctor determine which of these essential nutrients your body requires, and formulate a custom plan for those requirements. Establishing a nutrient-balanced body can help you in meeting your health goals, such as involving your cardiovascular health, age-management, healthy levels of cholesterol, weight loss, to name a few.

Sound like something that you might be interested in?

Why not find out more about micronutrient testing by talking to Dr. Shreder, Dr. Frye, or Carrie today?

We hope you found the information contained in this article useful. As always, we wish you good health.

Here’s to looking good, feeling good and getting the most out of life!


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