Are you getting all that your body requires?
Even with that healthy diet you are maintaining (-I hope!) there is still a very great risk that you are running short on certain key nutrients. Some health advocates may say otherwise for sure, but the fact is that in this day of modern food processing, soil depletion, toxic contamination, etc. just trying to watch what you eat is not enough. Furthermore, in order to be effective, a smart supplementation plan must be complete and intelligently integrated in it’s design. Otherwise a disturbing condition may be difficult to diagnose, and the long term effects of many deficiencies can be drastic.
Here are some of the surprising nutrients many of us fall short on:
- Iodine. According to the Journal of American College of Nutrition, (2006 Feb 25(1)1-11) nearly 74% of normal, so called “healthy” adults are not consuming enough iodine. Part of the explanation may be the reduced consumption of Iodized salt by health-conscious individuals, and also the fact that flour production no longer uses iodine, instead opting for bromide which can actually inhibit the action of iodine. Iodine is a critical element of the diet, make no mistake about it. It is necessary for the production of thyroid hormone, and thus regulates almost all facets of metabolism. Some of the symptoms of iodine shortage: Fatigue, muscle weakness, weight gain or loss, mental “fog”, irritability, depression, joint or muscle pain. As stated it is far reaching and critically important. Iodine may also prevent breast and stomach cancers, it can treat or prevent diabetes and helps to maintain normal immunity. Here are your best dietary sources for iodine: Eggs, Dairy, seafood, seaweed in particular, iodized salt, soy sauce. (Seafood, soy – is it surprising that Japanese women suffer only 1/3 the breast cancer rate of their American counterparts?)
- Vitamin B12. B vitamins are critical for so many functions that I always recommend their supplementation despite the availability in so many foods. I’ve written on them earlier here, and despite this easy accessibility B12 in particular may be lacking in many people’s diets. According to Prev Medicine (2004 Dec:39(6):1256-66, “up to 40% of Americans have low levels of B12 (cobalamin)and more than 20% of those over 65 suffer from severe B12 deficiency.” This may in part be responsible for that “mental fog” so many attribute to aging; it’s deficiency has been linked to depression, cognitive impairment, and age-related dementia. Along with B6 and folate it is also an important player in the metabolic process of methylation, neutralizing the dangerous amino acid homocysteine and thus safeguarding against cardiovascular diseases. Your best dietary sources of B12: Meats, eggs, dairy products. Vegetarians must be sure to supplement B12 or they could run the risk of developing pernicious anemia.
- Gamma Tocopherol. (a version of Vitamin E) One of the most popular ones on the shelves, Vitamin E or alpha tocopherol is well noted for its antioxidant and cardioprotective properties. However, if you are taking D alpha tocopherol in particularly large doses you run the risk of upsetting some important metabolic balances. Excessive Vitamin E (over 1500 iu/day) may contribute to the development of TMP or tocopherol mediated peroxidation, where the antioxidant itself becomes a radical after giving up its electron. This must be neutralized or recharged by other antioxidants such as Vitamin C and lipoic acid. Another drawback to overloading on alpha tocopherol is that it can supplant the important gamma version in the cell membranes. (“Studies” page above) Gamma tocopherol, (along with tocotrienols) can neutralize already existing free radicals in the cells. The recommended dosage: 50-300 mg/day.
- Vitamin K. Everyone knows this one as an important blood clotting agent, but Vitamin Ks importance goes well beyond that function. It is critical to maintaining bone strength and also cardiovascular health. The K1 version is present in green leafy vegetables, the other one – Vitamin K2 – is manufactured by bacteria in the GI tract. I find it’s interrelationship with calcium to be pretty interesting – K2 is necessary to remove excess calcium from the bloodstream where it can lead to calcification of arterial tissue ( and also cartilage, by the way). Consumption of insufficient calcium prompts the body to draw it from the bones so it can be used for the nervous system. If inadequate vitamin K2 is present this free calcium can actually deform arterial tissue into bone forming cells, and a downward spiral of arterial disease is inevitable. Unfortunately it is very easy to be deficient in vitamin K despite a healthy diet because to its poor absorbability and insufficient GI production. This is exacerbated by the fact that most multi vitamins fail to include it. (check your own) Vit K is a very inexpensive one to add to your arsenal.
- Magnesium. Here is another interesting study -despite being present in so many foods most people are still consuming insufficient amounts of this critical mineral. It’s almost hard to name a biological function that is not in some way dependent upon magnesium to some extent. It is necessary for nerve function, bone matrix construction, hormone manufacture, energy generation, etc, etc. Suffering from diabetes, or maybe high blood pressure? Trouble sleeping at night? Magnesium supplementation may be the answer. In America alone less than 30% are getting enough of this mineral, with all the food sources it is hard to explain. Consume more nuts, chocolate, pumpkin seeds, bananas and whole grain products. As a low-cost assurance you might add a 250 mg supplement in the evening.
- Vitamin D. The info on this hormone-like vitamin keeps pouring in. It is well known for it’s role in calcium absorption, but it is also very important to immunity, and diseases like tuberculosis and multiple sclerosis have been linked to its deficiency. Vitamin D is important to muscle protein synthesis, and thus in promoting muscle mass and strength. It may even aid in the burning of fat. In an interesting meta-analysis published in BioMed Central Public Health, researchers found a lower risk of dying over 3.8 to 13.5 years among men and women with the highest Vit D levels. Up to 75% of Americans may be low in this important vitamin. Experts recommend supplementation of 1,000-2,000 iu per day for most people.
So as you can see, though a healthful diet is always the first recommendation, it may not be enough to ensure the robust, long healthy life you desire. These critical nutrients are easy to get, and inexpensive to supplement. Why not cover all the bases?