While many health professionals believed in the past that you “should” get all the nutrition you need from a healthy diet, the realities of our busy lifestyles, as well as soil depletion and the long distances even “fresh” food can travel to reach your plate, now indicate that it can be wise to consider supplements.
“Over the entire 20th century the average mineral content in cabbage, lettuce, spinach and tomatoes, declined from 400 mg to less than 50 mg.”
– US Department of Agriculture data
Many problems that develop as we age can be at least partially attributed to a lack of specific nutrients in our diets.
“The Journal of the American Medical Association today is advising all adults to take at least one multivitamin pill each day.”
Today we’re going to discuss some of the most important nutritional supplements that many Americans may be deficient in. If you’re “too busy” to take all this in, make sure you take a good multivitamin daily, particularly if you’re trying to lose weight. One study found an 80.8% increased likelihood of being overweight or obese in micronutrient-deficient subjects!
“Research has shown micronutrient deficiency to be scientifically linked to a higher risk of overweight/obesity and other dangerous and debilitating diseases.”
Vitamin D is essential to health. A huge study published in 2013 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at blood levels of Vitamin D in 9,949 people aged 50 to 74, over an extended period. They concluded that those who were Vitamin D deficient had a 71% higher rate of dying from any cause, a 42% greater risk of dying of cancer, and a 39% greater risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. Their risk of dying from respiratory disease was 250% greater!
Vitamin D is a low-cost supplement and commonly available, yet about 40% of Americans are deficient. To ensure you’re not, try to get 10-30 minutes of sun exposure at least twice a week. Other sources of Vitamin D include drinking milk, or eating two servings of fatty fish (such as salmon or mackerel) each week. However, you’d need 10 glasses of milk per day to get enough just from milk. Even if you regularly get some sun (we’re lucky here in Hawaii), consider a supplement of 1000 to 5000 IU of Vitamin D3, taken orally. Vitamin D is fat-soluble, so a softgel format is best.
“Up to 60% of all hospital patients and 80% of nursing home patients are Vitamin D deficient.”
Vitamin D can be particularly important to dieters as it supports healthy thyroid function, so your body can build muscle and shed fat. A Vitamin D deficiency can impair insulin production by the pancreas, and maintaining high vitamin D levels through sunlight exposure and/or supplementation can help reduce the risk of developing type-2 diabetes.
Also, obesity impairs Vitamin D utilization in the body, so you’ll need about twice as much Vitamin D if you’re obese – take a minimum of 2000 IU daily.
The US government recommends 15mg (22.5 IU) of Vitamin E (d-alpha tocopherol) daily, yet the Journal of the American Dietetic Association says that 93% of American men and 96% of American Women don’t consume this much. Again, get your Vitamin E supplements in a softgel format.
Vitamin E reduces the risk of heart disease, supports immune function (even lowering your risk of catching the common cold), and reduces the incidence of some types of dementia.
The largest study in medical history was published in 2006, correlating Vitamin E levels with mortality. 29,092 subjects were initially enrolled and the follow-up period was over 19 years. There was a significant reduction in overall mortality when comparing the subjects with the highest blood levels of Vitamin E, compared to the lowest.
Another study published in 2008 by the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that in people 65 and older, those with the lowest levels of Vitamin E were 60% more likely to suffer physical decline.
Natural sources of Vitamin E include olive oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts and avocado.
- is used in over 300 essential metabolic reactions within your body
- helps control heart beat rythms
- helps your body use calcium (and Vitamin D) to strengthen your bone structure
- relieves stress by reducing mental irritability and muscle tension
- is essential to helping your body produce the master antioxidant glutathione
- reduces diabetes symptoms such as peripheral neuropathy and insulin sensitivity
- helps regulate healthy blood sugar levels – very important to those wanting to maintain weight loss
- lowers incidence of migraines in many sufferers
- helps digestion, relieving gastrointestinal discomfort and disease
- relieves constipation
Natural sources high in magnesium include bran, oat bran, shredded wheat, brown rice, lima beans, spinach, swiss chard, seaweed, raw cacao, pumpkin seeds, almonds and almond butter.
Many people have difficulty absorbing the most commonly available magnesium supplement, magnesium oxide. Instead, look for the less commonly available magnesium citrate, or (even better) magnesium glycinate for optimal absorption. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for Magnesium is around 400 mg/day for adults (420 mg/day for men over 30 years of age and 320 mg/day for women over 30 years of age).
Consult With Your Physician
Of course, your specific medical needs can’t be taken into account by any general article, and you should always consult your own healthcare provider before adding a new supplement, as some can interact with medications or pre-existing medical conditions. If you’re in Hawaii and want to meet with me concerning nutrition and lifestyle change leading to lasting weight loss, your first visit to explore our medical weight loss program is free.
This article will be continued in Part 2, when I’ll discuss additional key nutrients you may be missing.