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Vitamin and Mineral Therapy
Pills That Can Ease Your Ills
The keys to a longer life, we’re told, are simple enough: Just eat right, exercise regularly, manage stress and get enough sleep. The tough part is practicing what’s preached.
Take food, for instance. The National Cancer Institute in Rockville, Marys land, recommends eating five servings of fruits and vegetables a day to reduce vour risk of certain cancers, but fewer than 10 percent of us follow that advice. And by not making the right food choices, we might be eating our way toward cancer rather than away from it. Meanwhile, most of us don’t get enough exerrise to stay healthy. And stress management? It’s hard enough to manage the kids, the job and the checkbook. And let’s not even begin to discuss coping •a-idi a lack of sleep.
Sigh! It can be hard to swallow all of this advice for better health. But there’s something that can make it go down a little easier: vitamin and mineral supplements.
Cheap, Safe and proven
Nearly half of all Americans-about 100 million people-use supplements occasionally. About half of them pop vitamin pills daily, spending nearly JU. Pillion a year in the process. It seems like money well-spent: Growing evi:?nce suggests that high doses of certain nutrients can help slow the natural png process and stave off heart disease, stroke, certain types of cancer and other diseases.
In foods, there are hundreds of nutrient compounds called phytochemicals, many of which have beneficial effects on health, for example, some of the phytochemicals in vegetables are thought by researchers to ward off cancer but are not available in supplements. That makes eating a healthy diet important. But many nutrients are found only in very low amounts in the foods we eat every day And some nutrients, such as folic acid, are better absorbed in the form that is used in supplements. “There is overwhelming evidence that supplements have beneficial effects on a person’s health, because they offer much higher doses of key nutrients.
Than you find in food-some times amounts that You could never get from diet alone, “ says Richard Anderson, ph-D., lead scientist for the nutrient requirements and functions laboratory at the j.s. Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center in Beltsville, Maryland.
“Unless you’re consuming 4.000 to 5,000 calories of healthy foods a about twice the amount of the typical American-you re not even getting the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for several trace minerals, let alone amounts that can help prevent and treat disease.
Supplements can also be fairly inexpensive. If you shop carefully, for as little as nine cents a day you can gulp down a brand-name multivitamin/mineral as nine cents a day you can gulp down a brand-name multivitamin/mineral supplement that provides all of the essential nutrients you’d get from a whole day of healthy eating. Add another nine cents, and you can take enough of vitamins C and E in supplements to possibly protect you from cancer and heart disease. For a little more, you can take a calcium supplement to prevent osteoporosis. That’s less than the cost of a single apple in some places, of course, some supplements cost more, but generally, for less than a dollar a day you can get more essential vitamins and minerals than you’d get from an entire day of healthy eating. Look for a natural supplement that’s free of food colorings, sweeteners and other additives.
And supplements are generally safe, especially if they are not grossly abused. “It’s true that a few supplements, most notably vitamins A and D, can cause some problems if taken in extremely large doses for extended periods of time, says Michael fanson, M.P> director of the Center for preventive Medicine in Barnstable, Massachusetts, and an officer of the American College for Advancement in Medicine. “But were talking about extremely large doses taken daily for a year or two.” These are amounts that may be as much as 50 times above the RjDAs and even 10 or more times higher than the megadoses sug’ gested on a short-term therapeutic basis to relieve a specific medical problem.
From Humbu Beginnings
Vitamins and minerals-or rather, the foods containing these nutrientshave been used as therapy for thousands of yearsThe ancient Egyptians ate the livers of roosters and oxen to cure night blindness due to vitamin A deficiency and sea sponge, a natural source of iodine, to treat goiters.
It wasn’t until around 1906 that vitamins were first discovered, ^hat triggered the search for vitamins was the fact that fat, protein and carbohydrates were found to be insufficient to support life.”It became clear that there was something else in food that was needed for survival, and the search was on says Annette Dickinson, pfr-D., director of scientific and regulatory affairs for the Council for Responsible Nutrition in Washington, D.C., a research and lobbying group for the supplement industry. Scientists went to work isolating the nutrient compounds from foods through complex chemical procedures. In 1912. the term vitamine was coined (for “vital amine,” amine being a kind of chemical structure; a few years later, the e was dropped when it was learned that some vitamins had different chemical strucrures and were not amines). £y 1925, vitamin supplements were on the market.
To a sufficient-enough degree that national magazines were trac king their sales, just like those of the automobile industry.
From 1906 through the 1940s, there was a lot of research going on with mins and supplements, and the actual vitamins were named alphabetically in the order they were discovered: The first vitamin isolated was called A, the next was called B, then C and so on, says Dr. Dickinson. “It took about 20 or 30 years to separate the compounds that were really vitamins from those that were something else.” And by that time, some letters were discarded, and others were filled in-one reason why there are eight B vitamins.
Vitamins versus Minerals
There are at least 13 vitamins and 15 minerals considered essential for good health. (To find out which nutrients these are, see page 142.) Vitamins are organic compounds, meaning that they contain carbon, which is found only in living things. Minerals are simpler, nonorganic cornpounds and are usually found in smaller amounts in foods. Along with essential fatty aids and amino acids, vitamins and minerals are among the almost 50 known essential nutrients we need for a healthy life, says Dr. Janson.
Vitamins versus Minerals
There are at least 13 vitamins and 15 minerals considered essential for good health. (To find out which nutrients these are, see “Getting What You Need7′ page 142^ Vitamins are organic compounds, meaning that they contain carbon’ which is found only in living things. Minerals are simpler, nonorganic com’ pounds and are usually found in smaller amounts in foods. Along with essential fatty aids and amino acids, vitamins and minerals are among the almost 50 known essential nutrients we need for a healthy life, says Dr. Janson. Four of those vitamins-A, D. £ and K-are fat-soluble, meaning that excess amounts may be stored in the body. The others-C and the eight B vitamins—are water-soluble, so excess amounts are simply urinated away.
Minerals, most of which were identified years after the initial research into vitamins, are also classified in two categories: major minerals, or macronutrients, such as calcium, magnesium and potassium, which, are found in relatively high concentrations in food; and trace minerals, or micionutrients, such chromium, copper, iron and zinc, which are usually found in only minute amounts. All of these nutrients are crucial to the preservation of life. Whether from food or supplements, vitamins and minerals play a role in cell building and in the health of every organ in your body as well as of Your bones, immunity and nervous system. And while they don’t supply energy~you get that from carbo hydrates, protein and fat—they do release energy from food so that Your body can use it.
“Every cell in your body needs every vitamin, but not every cell utilizes them in the same way or needs the same amounts,’ says Dr. Janson. Of that, it’s hard to say which vitamins or minerals are most important.