Like myself, and most of my patients, you probably have insurance policies on many things – your house, your car, your health, and, most importantly, your life. Why? Because they give you peace of mind. They cover, and perhaps even prevent, possible problems that might occur that could cost you a fortune to solve – even cause you to go bankrupt.
In the same way, taking supplements – vitamins, minerals, certain herbs on occasion – are like taking out a nutritional insurance policy for yourself. Like all your other insurances, I feel that supplements offer additional peace of mind that you’re giving your body the best possible nutritional coverage you can. Supplements can prevent health bankruptcy. Here’s why.
Nutritional Insurance – Diet Gap Coverage
Do you eat the recommended 8-10 servings of fruits and vegetables every day? If so, do you know how much of the vitamin/mineral content is preserved after cooking them? Do you know how much of that vitamin/mineral content your ‘aging’ intestinesare absorbing?
If your answer to any of these questions is No, then you need nutritional insurance. That’s right. Not because I suggest or recommend. Need, not because I say so, but because your body itself will start to tell you so. In subtle, and not so subtle, feedback, your body lets you know that you’re not getting enough of the right nutrition. With vitamin/mineral deficiencies, your body can develop a variety of conditions that current research is learning more and more about every day.
Conditions Caused by Vitamin/Mineral Deficiencies
Many nutritional researchers, scientists and doctors would say that all illness has its origin in nutritional deficiencies and that you could stay much healthier if you just paid more attention to what you ate. I happen to agree with that to a large extent, even though I know that some illnesses occur from other causes as well. Lately a lot of research is showing that certain illnesses and conditions can be outgrowths of nutritional deficiencies in key vitamins and minerals. And, that replenishing those deficiencies can help treat those conditions. Here’s a few:
1. Vitamin A. Researchers have known for some time that deficiencies in vitamin A result in vision problems, and blindness, mostly in children from underdeveloped countries. Vitamin A protects the cornea and helps suppress a certain type of inflammation of the eyes called keratoconjunctivitis. Recent research from the National Eye Institute has shown that vitamin A, as well as other antioxidants, has been linked to preventing macular degeneration. Harvard Medical School studies recently revealed that vitamin A may also help prevent retinitis pigmentosa. As well, a derivative of vitamin A, retinoic acid, has recently been shown in research out of the Fox Chase Cancer Center to fight breast cancer by suppressing tumor growth. Vitamin A is also important for a healthy immune system and warding off infection.
2. B Vitamins. Several important findings have come out of studies on the B vitamins in the last few years. One of them involves the significance of folic acid in fighting heart disease as it prevents dangerous levels of homocysteine to build up. Niacin, vitamin B3, is also important to lowering cholesterol. In fact, it works better than most prescription statin drugs in lowering cholesterol. Research has found that most people over the age of 40 have B12 deficiencies. These can result in neurodegenerative disease later in life, as well as tinnitus, and post traumatic stress disorder. B12 deficiencies are common in people with intestinal disorders like Crohn’s disease and even in type 2 diabetics who take Metformin and experience frequent loose stools.
3. Vitamin C. It was discovered over a hundred years ago that vitamin C deficiency causes scurvy. Since then, researchers like Linus Pauling had shown that vitamin C is a major antioxidant which your entire body depends on to fight free radical damage. Diseases like cancer are known to be outgrowths of inadequate antioxidant coverage that allows free radicals to run amok and seriously damage cell’s DNA.
4. Vitamin D. Recent research has shown Vitamin D deficiency to be linked toprostate cancer, diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and more. I predict that in the very near future this key vitamin will also be used to treat certain diseases and conditions – it’s that powerful of an immune system builder. Yet, most people, especially darker skinned peoples, African-Americans, Latinos, Indians, Asians, etc., are deficient in vitamin D. This is easily checked by a simple blood test.
5. Vitamin E. Another major antioxidant, vitamin E has been known to reduce the risk of heart disease by about 42%. It helps keep the tissues of the eye strong, and supports the functioning of the central nervous system. Recent research out of Rutgers Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy and New Jersey Cancer Institute has also shown the gamma and delta tocopherols in vitamin E (from nuts and vegetable oils) to be protective against many cancers. Alpha tocopherols, those used most commonly in vitamin supplements, do not share this benefit however.
6. Selenium. This is a key mineral/antioxidant in preventing thyroid disease and cancer. Many people in the Midwest are deficient in it as the soils in this area are lacking in selenium. 200 mcg of selenium a day is required for good health. Eating two large Brazil nuts a day can also provide enough.
7. Melatonin. This is a key hormone that declines greatly as you get older and needs to be re-supplemented. It helps produce a good night’s sleep, fights heart disease by scavenging free radicals, helps prevent cataracts, lowers your cholesterol and boosts your immune system.
There you have a very short list of all the amazing things that research is learning about certain key vitamins and hormones. It may not be possible to get enough nutrition from your food alone today with our nutrient poor soils and environmental hazards. I firmly believe that supplementing with vitamins and minerals is the key to staying vibrant and youthful long into old age. They’re one of the best insurance policies you’ll ever buy.
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.