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Nutritional Supplementation

Nutritional Supplements

Micronutrients (vitamins, minerals and other agents such as anti-oxidants) are essential for life but in lesser quantities than macronutrients.  Vitamins and minerals act as coenzymes which are at the heart of every bodily and neural function.  Numerous enzyme processes are dependent on micronutrients.  Many nutrients act as antioxidants, controlling the free-radical activity that wears our bodies down.  Moreover, gene expression, both protective and harmful, is impacted by micronutrients.  Recent studies show that vitamins and minerals also help control chronic inflammation, now believed to be at the root of aging, degeneration, and dozens of diseases.

The bulk of your micronutrients should come from the food you eat. Taking nutritional supplements as though they are nutritional replacements for real food and a balanced diet is a mistake.  A healthful diet is necessary for many nutritional supplements to even provide any benefit to you. If you are eating an optimum, nutritionally balanced diet you will be getting most of the essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients you require for optimal health.  It is possible, however, that you may not be ingesting sufficient quantities.  The government published recommended daily allowances (RDA) for vitamins and other supplements are just enough to keep you alive.  The RDAs are not enough to prevent the degenerative changes associated with aging.  To acquire micronutrients in quantities sufficient to prevent aging-related disease and dysfunction it is likely that you will need a source in addition to your food.

Where Our Diets Fall Short
A surprising number of Americans fail to get even the recommended daily allowances (RDA) for a host of basic vitamins and minerals, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture surveys:

Zinc - Supports the immune system, wound healing, hormone levels, growth, and development
Calcium - Maintains bones, helps control blood pressure
Magnesium - Helps control blood sugar and blood pressure; may help prevent diabetes and heart disease
Vitamin A - Helps maintain immune system, protects against oxidation; may reduce risk of certain cancers
Vitamin B6 - Helps maintain the immune system and controls blood sugar and level of homocysteine
Vitamin C - Necessary for tissue repair and growth; may help reduce risk of cancer and stroke
Folic acid - Promotes normal growth and development; helps produce cells and protect DNA; helps control homocysteine level
Do the Prescriptions You Take Deplete Your Nutritional Status?
Many of the most commonly used medications further complicate the challenge to get optimum nutrient levels.  Even if you consume sufficient quantities of nutrients, some medications prevent them from being absorbed or effectively used.  Other medications can reduce the bodies production of nutrients.

Should You Take Supplements?
In addition to the fact that many Americans do not consume adequate amounts of many micronutrients and that micronutrient absorption is adversely affected by numerous common medications, there are, in fact, several additional reasons to consider supplementation even when consuming a healthful diet and not taking medications:

1.  Many of todays foods are not as rich as they once were in vitamins and minerals by the time you consume them.  Soils are depleted in many areas due to some farming methods. In many areas, too, soils are damaged from exposure to toxins, pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers.  The heavy use of pesticides and herbicides adds risks from ingesting toxins.

Findings published in a 2004 issue of the Journal of the American college of Nutrition showed diminishing levels of nutrients in fruits and vegetables.  Much of it has to do with the way commercial growers do business.  Selective breeding for water and pith (the fibrous part of fruits and vegetables) has created produce that is ships well and weighs a lot.  The downside is less vitamin content.  Many of the newer hybrids are as much as 50% lower in nutrients.  Many foods are harvested before the food has ripened fully, to avoid spoilage before arriving at the market.  Green fruit doesnt have a chance to sun-ripen; it is artificially ripened with ethylene.  Produce deprived of sunlight cannot develop sunlight- related nutrients such anthocyanins.  Anthocyanins provide humans with protection against cancer, DNA damage, brain cell deterioration, and much more. Polyphenols likewise have no chance to fully develop when produce is picked green.  By some estimates as much as 50% of the antioxidants found in produce form only during the final 20% of maturation to a fully ripened state.  Harvesting produce before it is fully ripe robs us of the full potential nutritional value.  The traditional Mediterranean nutritional lifestyle involves purchasing produce at the market daily, when it is at its peak, maximizing the nutrient content.  Packaging and preservation methods, shipping delays, variations in shipping/storage temperatures and humidity can further deplete foods of their nutritional value.

2.  The American lifestyle does not promote healthful nutrition habits.  We live busy lives, and most of us find it difficult to eat a perfect diet every day, including 8-10 servings of fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, whole grains and minimal sugar.

3.  Through epidemiological studies of populations, we know that the eating habits and kinds of foods eaten in various cultures contribute to a lower incidence of  various diseases and even result in improved longevity.  For example, the Okinawan people are among the longest-lived people known.  Much of their longevity has been attributed to their diet.  Prostate and breast cancer rates are significantly lower in Asian cultures where soy makes up a large part of the diet. Yet it would be unrealistic to assume most Americans could fully adopt their eating habits.  An alternative is to augment our diet with specific nutritional supplements found in the foods consumed by various cultures and have also been shown to contribute to reduced disease, better health or longevity.

4.  Scientific research has found that many micronutrients, when consumed in sufficient quantity can provide significant protection from disease.  The problem is that the quantities demonstrated by research to provide significant health benefits may be difficult or impossible to attain by using food as the sole source. Indole-3-Carbinol (I3C), for example, may reduce the risk of breast cancer when ingested in adequate quantity.  I3C is naturally present in cruciferous vegetables. However, one would have to consume several pounds of cruciferous vegetables daily to reach protective levels.  While consuming cruciferous vegetables as often as possible is desirable, augmenting your diet with targeted nutritional supplements such as IC3 may offer adequate protection.

5.  As we age our digestive system loses the capability to adequately absorb many nutrients, even when the diet is otherwise optimally-balanced.  Deficiencies are common as a result.  Nutritional supplementation is a reasonable solution.

6.  Many prescription and over-the-counter medications interfere with absorption of some nutrients from our food or with their production by our body.