Vitamins & Minerals for Health Maintenance!
When it comes to optimal intake of vitamins, minerals and other vital nutrients, many individuals come up short. Although food should be the primary source of essential nutrients, supplements can play a role in supporting healthy nutrition.
There are few people who doubt the benefit of supplementing the Standard American Diet (SAD) with essential vitamins, minerals and certain essential fatty acids (including omega-3s). Vital for the maintenance of all body structures and functions, vitamins cannot be made by the human body (with the notable exception of vitamin D). When consumed correctly, vitamins and minerals are known to promote health and well-being, most notably in states of deficiency.(1-5)
Food scientists are correct in their assertion that vitamins and minerals are best obtained from diet. However, most widely popular processed food products have been robbed of nutrients. As a result, many people may be at risk for vitamin or mineral deficiencies, even those in industrialized societies.
Over time, physicians and healthcare professionals have increasingly accepted the need for vitamin or mineral supplements. Numerous population studies have documented that intakes of essential nutrients are often below recommended daily intakes or values (RDI, RDV). It is important to note that the concept of RDI was actually generated from assessments of vitamin intake to prevent nutrient deficiencies. This does not necessarily mean that the RDI amount of a vitamin is enough for health and well-being.
Perhaps the most striking example of a widespread deficiency is that of vitamin D. After years of studies and cases have linked vitamin D deficiency with a number of health risks, formal recommendations have been made by government agencies to advise a higher daily intake of 1,000 units of vitamin D. Although there are some circumstances where physicians use vitamins in higher dosages for therapeutic (treatment) effects, high dosage vitamin therapies should not be self-administered, especially if the vitamin is known to be toxic in high dosage (e.g., Vitamins A, D or K).
The revised recommendations for vitamin intakes are not limited to vitamin D, as nutritional scientists have also uncovered deficiencies of vitamin E in the general population. In addition, because many Americans are strangers to fruit and vegetables, their dietary intakes of a wide range of important vitamins and minerals are likely inadequate. Only a limited segment of the population obtains the recommended five servings of fruit and vegetables daily.
Those who do not eat fruits and vegetables are also missing out on the benefits of phytochemicals found in these plant foods. These natural substances have been shown to help and enhance the function of vital nutrients. This knowledge has impacted the practice of integrative medicine to a major degree, as many physicians are starting to use combinations of fruits, vegetables, berries and herbs together with vitamin or mineral supplementation.
Although supplemental nutrient requirements vary among individuals, there are many circumstances in which I believe vitamin supplementation is absolutely vital. Such circumstances include calorie-controlled dieting and acute or chronic illness, or the presence of risk factors for illness, where the need for extra nutrients may be necessary.
Western society is constantly "on the go," and people are eating food that is often deficient in vital nutrients. This basic information about nutrition provides a compelling argument for every person to consider their daily needs of supplemental vitamins and minerals.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (U.S.). Dietary supplements are not to be used to diagnose, treat or prevent disease.
- Ascherio, A., Rimm, E.B., Giovannucci, E.L., et al. A Prospective Study of Nutritional Factors and Hypertension Among US Men. Circulation 86 (1992): 1475-1484.
- Blot, W.J., Li, J.Y., Taylor, P.R., et al. Nutrition Intervention Trials in Linxian, China: Supplementation With Specific Vitamin/Mineral Combinations, Cancer Incidence, and Disease-Specific Mortality in the General Population. J Natl Cancer Inst 85 (1993):1483-1492.
- Chapuy, M.C., Arlot, M.E., Duboeuf, F., et al. Vitamin D3 and Calcium to Prevent hip Fractures in Elderly Women. NEJM 327 (1992): 1637- 1642.
- Harlan, W.R., Hull, A.L., Schmouder, R.L., et al. Blood Pressure and Nutrition in Adults: The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Am J Epidemiol 120 (1984):17-28.
- Ubbink, J.B., Vermaak, W.J., van der Merwe, A., et al. Vitamin B12, Vitamin B6, and Folate Nutritional Status in Men with Hyperhomocysteinemia. Am J Clin Nutr 57 (1993):47-53.
Stephen Holt, MD
Stephen Holt, MD is a Distinguished Professor of Medicine (Emerite) and a medical practitioner in New York State. He has published many peer-review papers in medicine and he is a best-selling author with more than twenty books in national and international distribution. He has received many awards for teaching and research. Dr. Holt is a frequent lecturer at scientific meetings and healthcare facilities throughout the world. He is the founder of the Holt Institute of Medicine (www.hiom.org) and www.stephenholtmd.com
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