Author: Roon Frost
Source: Taste for Life, July 2005
An estimated 80 percent of American adults take nutritional supplements, primarily vitamins and minerals, or micronutrients. The main reason? We need to compensate for nutritional inadequacies in the modern American diet, cited since the 1960s as a contributing factor in a variety of diseases from atherosclerosis and diabetes to high blood pressure and stroke.
Diets high in processed (trans) fats, refined sugar, and caffeine increase the risk of health problems, as do escalating environmental pollution of the food supply and 24/7 lifestyles. No wonder the U.S. Department of Agriculture has reported that a major portion of our population ingests less than 70 percent of the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for vitamins A, B complex, C and the essential minerals calcium, magnesium, and iron.
A Healthy Approach
People who use vitamin supplements tend to exhibit more positive behaviors in terms of health than others, finds a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Nurses’ Health Study shows that long-term use of vitamin E and high intakes of vitamins B1 (thiamine) and B2 (riboflavin) may protect vision. Taking folate and vitamin B12 appears to help slow cognitive decline among older people, as does taking antioxidant vitamins. Vitamin D helps reduce the risk of fracture in older persons. For a complete list of micronutrients and their benefits, see the pullout chart on the following pages.
For optimal “micro” management, take a balanced multivitamin-mineral formula, since micronutrients work together. For example, beta carotene plus vitamins C and E work with several minerals (copper, manganese, selenium, and zinc) to delay or prevent a number of degenerative diseases including certain types of cancer. B vitamins are best taken together because of their close metabolic interrelationship.
Who Needs A Multi?
While most individuals will benefit from micronutrient supplements, young children (please see “The Right Stuff for Kids” in our upcoming August issue) and women are particularly at risk for dietary deficits. Pregnancy and breastfeeding make enormous demands on a woman nutritionally. But so does athletic competition-and only 36 percent of female college athletes surveyed take a multi today, according to a recent assessment by Simmons College nutritionists.
Two-thirds of Americans are currently overweight, and reducing the amount of food in a weight-loss plan makes a multivitamin-mineral particularly useful. “Virtually everyone would be helped by a rational program of supplementation,” says Annette Dickinson, PhD, former president of the Council for Responsible Nutrition, “and it’s never too late to begin.”