01 Jul The Basics of Nutritional Supplementation
As a pharmacist, I am frequently asked about taking nutritional supplements. Sometimes the question being asked is really whether or not it is worth the effort. There are many reasons to take supplements, and I agree it can be overdone, so let’s look at just the basics of supplementation for now.
First I recommend a good multi-vitamin and mineral combination since few of us eat the perfect diet. Unless you are eating perfectly, I believe that you will benefit from filling in the nutritional “holes” left by the average American diet. There are hundreds of options for multivitamins, and I would choose one that has as a minimum all of the B vitamins, Vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene, Vitamin C, Vitamin D3, Vitamin E (natural form), and a good cross-section of the trace minerals. The usual argument against multi’s is that the only thing they accomplish is expensive urine, but I believe it is clear that for optimum health we need more than the Minimum Daily Requirement.
Although there is usually some Vitamin C in a multi, there is rarely enough to maintain maximum health. The 60mg or so that is in most multi’s is enough to keep you from getting scurvy, but not enough for “optimal” health. Therefore I also recommend a time-release Vitamin C dosage in the range of 500mg or so along with the multi.
Omega-3 fatty acids are next on my list, since the average diet is deficient in this critical nutrient. Among many effects, these fatty acids are anti-inflammatory, and we know that inflammation is a source of many problems including heart disease within the body. The Omega-3 fatty acids are also known as “essential fatty acids” because the body needs them for these various purposes, and it can’t make them from other fats. They have to be consumed in the diet. Oily fish is the best dietary source of this nutrient but is not something most people will eat 2 or 3 times a week. Tree nuts (not peanuts) are also a good source of this important nutrient. Supplementation with a refined Fish Oil product allows us to get Omega-3 in a palatable form without the fishy taste less reputable brands often cause.
Another category commonly needed for women is for bone health. The right mix of calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D can go a long way toward preventing the possibly debilitating condition of osteoporosis. At least 1000mg to 1500mg of an absorbable form of calcium (not calcium carbonate) and about half that amount of magnesium, along with around 1000 units of vitamin D are suggested. If you have had your Vitamin D level tested and found to be low, even more than 1000 units should be consumed.
For men over 50, it is time to consider supporting the prostate. A good extract of saw palmetto combined with pygeum africanum, stinging nettle, zinc and selenium can delay onset of BPH (benign prostatic hypertrophy).
For persons over 60, it is also time to consider a daily aspirin (adult low strength-81mg). If you have underlying medical issues, you should ask your doctor is this is appropriate, but for most of us, it is a good way to reduce heart attack and stroke risk, and recent studies indicate it may also reduce the incidence of several forms of cancer.
I realize this can be overwhelming, but my belief is that a reasonable, rational supplementation program can bring more life to our years, and more years to our life.