Dietary Supplements: To Be or Not To Be?
In the light of the approaching fall season, I decided to re-examine the “To be or not to be” question as it relates to vitamin supplements. Growing up, my family followed strict vitamin intake schedule rigorously implemented by my mother in order to avoid slightest possibility of vitamin deficiency. I have not been as consistent and systematic about vitamin intake in my adult years since the information about their need and efficiency was rather conflicting.
General consensus is that balanced diet should provide people with sufficient amount of life essential micronutrients (carbs, proteins, fats) and supplementary micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, water). In other words, if people consume high – quality, nutrient – rich foods, they will not need / will not realize any additional benefit from consumption of any additional supplements. However, given modern day dietary habits and food manufacturing practices, our diets might not be as balanced and as nutrient – rich as ideally desired.
|Function||– Release energy from the food
– Develop red blood cells
– Help in blood clotting
– Help to maintain healthy eyes, skin, hair, etc
|– Help in bone and teeth formation
– Help in blood coagulation
– Help in muscle contraction
|Structure||Organic compounds that are broken down by heat, air and acid||Minerals are inorganic and hold on to their chemical structure
|Stability||We derive vitamins from food; however, due to cooking, storage and exposure to air vitamin content is substantially decreased (even inactivated)
|Minerals in soil and water easily find their way into the body through the plants, fish, animals and fluids we consume
|Human need||All vitamins are required by the human body for healthy nutrition
|Only some minerals are requires|
Based on my research, minerals and vitamin supplements get a definite “to be” from me. That being said, as much as vitamins and minerals interact upon ingestion and support each other’s work, their relationship is not always cooperative. This means that there is a very fine line between getting enough of vitamins and minerals (which is healthy) vs getting too much of them (which can be harmful). Essentially, it is best to give consideration to the actual needs of the body and properties of whatever supplement you choose to ingest.
Closer look at vitamins
|Water – soluble||Fat – soluble|
|Function||– Help to free the energy found in consumed food
– Help to keep tissues healthy
|– Help to keep eyes, skin, lungs, gastrointestinal tract and nervous system healthy|
|Absorption||Vitamins are absorbed directly into the bloodstream as food is broken down during digestion or as a supplement dissolves||Vitamins
are absorbed in fat globulets that travel through the lymphatic system of the small intestine and into the general blood circulation within the body
|Storage||Mostly not stored
Kidneys continuously regulate levels of water – soluble vitamins, shunting excesses out of the body by means of urine
|Stored in body tissues for future use
The liver and fatty tissues store oil-soluble vitamins. When taken in excess quantities, oil-soluble vitamins can become toxic
|Intake||Small, frequent doses: Since water – soluble vitamins are easily eliminated through urine, it is recommended to replenish them daily
Best to be taken before food: In case of upset stomach or heartburn, water – soluble vitamins can be taken with food
|Consult with the doctor in case there is a need for fat – soluble vitamins.
If you ingest fat – soluble vitamins, make sure to consume them with food. Fat – soluble vitamins are much better absorbed into bloodstream when consumed with fat
| Be aware
|Water – soluble vitamins rarely reach toxic level. That said, substantial amount of water has to be consumed within the day in order to help kidneys to remove wastes from the blood
|Consult with the doctor and monitor your reactions|
Closer look at minerals
|Macro minerals||Trace minerals|
|Major function||Maintain proper balance of water in the body
|Help with digestion, growth and hormone regulation
|Amount needed||The body needs and stores large amount of major minerals
|Less than 20 – 100 milligram of each every day|
|Be aware||Most of major minerals are also classified as electrolytes, chemicals that conduct electricity when mixed with water||When it comes to trace minerals, there is a very tiny difference “too much” and “just enough”. Food is a safe source of trace minerals but supplements can tip over the balance
Traditionally, eating fresh grains, fruits and vegetables grown in nutrient – rich soil was the primary supply for a full spectrum of minerals. However, modern living with its dependency on processed foods, purified / distilled water and depleted soil (naturally occurring, nutrient – rich soil is becoming increasingly rare) implies a risk of inadequate intake of essential minerals. That being said, even though mineral supplements are easily administered over the counter, it is best to consult with the doctor first. If you want to consider mineral replenishment options, you should look into fluids rich with electrolytes.
Electrolytes are primarily composed of the minerals such as sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, chloride, phosphates and sulfates. Electrolytes carry electric charge when they are dissolved in liquid such as blood. The electricity created when electrolytes move in and out of the cells helps to keep body hydrated, ensures nerves and muscles are functioning properly, balances pH in the blood, keeps blood pressure normal and helps to repair damaged tissues. Any time you lose fluids (through sweating, exercises, vomiting, diarrhea, etc), you lose electrolytes. An electrolyte imbalance can cause wide variety of issues which is why it is important to get enough of the major minerals each day and replenish any lost electrolytes lost during exercises. The kidneys help to maintain electrolyte concentration by filtering electrolytes and water from blood, and excreting any excess into the urine. Thus, the kidneys help maintain a balance between daily consumption and excretion of electrolytes and water.
Thanks for reading,