Monday, July 23, 2012

Question: Should I Take a Vitamin or Mineral Supplement?

Should You Take a Vitamin or Mineral Supplement?

One of the most common questions I recieve is........

Should I take a supplement?


If you would like to continue following my work please visit my new site:  http://www.plantbasednutritionista.com

I hope to see you there!


On my last blog post one of the questions asked was about 'Vegan' vitamin and mineral supplements.  'Vegan' in the case of vitamins or minerals really doesn't mean a whole lot, not to say that some aren't made from animal derived ingredients, but say, vegan calcium citrate does not mean it is well absorbed, necessary, or even beneficial.  Different methods of chelation of minerals have HIGHLY variable absorption rates, not to mention that these supplements do not have a proper balance of all other cofactors necessary for proper utilization of calcium anyway!  This is a highly complex balance the body needs and merely taking calcium isn't going to do that for you whether vegan, chelated or whatever the case may be.  This goes for all synthetic vitamins and 'artificially' chelated minerals!  NONE of them are natural, nor are they provided in a whole complex of cofactors and regulating factors such as fiber.

I am not entirely opposed to taking a supplement for a very specific reason but in general I do NOT recommend them for everyone.  We are meant to get all the nutrients we need in our food not from a bottle of isolated, artificially chelated or synthetically produced vitamins and minerals.

There are many supplement companies that have gotten very clever in their marketing, they put Whole Food supplement on the label.  This has fooled many consumers and in fact, all the midwives in my area recommend a specific brand of prenatal vitamins because it says whole food supplement on the label.  I cannot believe that these otherwise intelligent women fall for this.  The supplement includes some dried fruits and vegetables but most or all of the actually vitamins and minerals do NOT come from these foods.  By including the whole food concentrates they can call the supplement whole food, it is tricky, but an outright lie.

There are literally tens of thousands of phytonutrients that have been discovered, and probably even more that we have yet to discover.  All of these nutrients including vitamins and minerals work synergistically together in a perfectly orchestrated balance to promote health and wellbeing.  Whenever scientists try to make a profit by isolating or synthetically producing plant compounds in supplements we start to run into health problems.  Most people don't realize that Dozens of studies have found INCREASED risk of health problems from taking supplements.

Folic Acid
I want to be very clear with this one, folic acid is a synthetically produced 'vitamin'.  FOLATE is a naturally occuring vitamin compound found in green leafy vegetables and is ABUNDANT in a variety of vegetables.   We need folate and we know that in pregnancy it is critically important for preventing neural tube defects and cleft palate, however we have NO need for folic acid!

Are there risks to taking folic acid in pregnancy?

Absolutely!  A study published in the British Medical Journal in the December 2004 issue found that supplementation with folic acid increased the risk of death by 21-42% and doubled a woman's risk of breast cancer.  This study included 3487 women utilizing a trial of folic acid supplementation, as the study unfolded researchers found higher rate of death and cancer among women taking folic acid in about .2mg vs. 5mg. per day.

Not convinced?

Another study called the Folate After Coronary Intervention Trial, which was conducted on 636 heart patients after the patients had undergone placement of stents.  The study reviewed health after six months of supplementation with folic acid.  The patients taking the folic acid had significantly MORE narrowing of the arteries, increased closure of the arteries, and more major cardiac events compared to those on a placebo.

How do you ensure adequate Folate intake?

EASY!!  Green smoothies, salads, lots of leafy green vegetables, legumes and some whole grains are an excellent source as well!
 
1 Med. baked potato............12%
1 cup raw spinach.................16%
1 cup Romaine Lettuce.........15%
1 c. broccoli...........................14%
1 cup. garbanzo beans..........71%
1 cup black beans...................64%
1 cup quinoa cooked...............19%

6) Lange H.   Folate After Coronary Intervention Trial” (FACIT). http://www.accitalia.it/congress_centre/meeting_int/detail.asp?acr_trial=FACIT
Lange H. The folate after coronary intervention trial (FACIT). Scientific presentation at the 52nd Annual Scientific Sessions of the American College of Cardiology, Chicago, March 30th, 2003. 
7)  Schnyder G, Roffi M, Flammer Y, et al. Effects of homocysteine-lowering therapy on restenosis after percutaneous coronary intervention for narrowings in small coronary arteries. Am J Cardiol 2003; 91:1265-1269.


What about Vitamin A?

There have been some organizations promoting the idea that we need preformed vitamin A.  This is absolutely not true,  the human liver cannot detoxify vitamin A and therefore excess intake of preformed vitamin A can cause toxicity.  
Are there risks to vitamin A toxicity....YES!

#1 Vitamin A toxicity in pregnancy can cause birth defects! 

Botto LD et al. Epidemiology. 2001 Sep;12(5):491-6.

2. Research has found that supplemental vitamin A can cause calcium loss in the urine and contribute to osteoporosis.
 
Melhus H et al. Ann Intern Med. 1998 Nov 15;129(10):770-8.

3. A meta-analysis published in the cochrane database found increased mortality in individuals taking Vitamin A, beta-carotene or vitamin E. 
Bjelakovic G et al. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008 Apr 16;(2):CD007176.

The TRUTH about vitamin A, our bodies convert beta-carotene into Vitamin A as needed!  No, not ALL beta-carotene consumed is converted, we do NOT want the body to do that.  The body regulates the amount of vitamin A to prevent toxicity as well as prevent deficiency.  Therefore, if I consume say 8 oz. of carrot juice which contains a lot of beta-carotene, but my body has enough vitamin A already, guess what?  It is NOT going to convert it because I don't need it!!!
 
People misunderstand the fact that the body doesn't convert regular amounts of beta-carotene into vitamin A.  They believe that because at times beta-carotene conversion is low, this means inadequate!  This is absolutely false, the body is NOT going to cause itself to be deficient when sufficient beta-carotene is available in the diet, nor is it going to cause toxicity.  The body is highly intelligent and we must respect this!

How do you obtain enough vitamin A?

Consume lots of yellow and orange vegetables and fruits!

1 c. cubed cantaloupe.........................232%
10 baby carrots.................................591%
1 c. green leaf lettuce........................114%
1 c. spinach........................................121%
1 c. watermelon diced ........................37%
1 c. butternut squash cubed................980%

Okay, do you see how this is NOT hard!  You simply eat a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes and you obtain MORE than enough nutrition!  No study has EVER found toxicity or health problems from consuming too much beta-carotene in foods, other than a case of an orange hue to the skin which is completely harmless at amounts of carrot juice requires ENORMOUS.

Iron supplementation

Iron is extremely important in the body,  it is necessary to make the oxygen carrying proteins hemoglobin and myoglobin.   However, iron can also be toxic! 

A study conducted by the Department of Medicine, University of Western Ontario in Canada found that an overload of iron in the body can produce many symptoms that may include, frequent infections, join pain, hip pain, gastric pain, elevated liver enzymes, cessation of menstruation, hair loss and heart fluttering. 

Adams PC, et al. The relationship between iron overload, clinical symptoms and age in 410 persons with genetic hemochromatosis. Hepatology 1997;25:162-6

A study published in Diabetes Care in 2007 evaluated women with type II diabetes from 1980 through 2000 with 550 documented cases of coronary heart disease.  Women who had the highest level of heme-iron intake from red meat had  an increased risk of coronary heart disease compared to those with the lowest intake.   Researchers concluded that higher intake of heme-iron increase the risk of heart disease in patients with type II diabetes.  

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17192341

According to a Cochrane Review excess iron supplementation in pregnancy, or daily iron supplementation leading to high hemoglobin concentrations increased the risk of premature birth and low birth weight babies.  It was recommended that to minimize symptoms of constipation, nausea and iron overload women supplement intermittently.
  http://summaries.cochrane.org/CD009997/intermittent-regimens-of-iron-supplementation-during-pregnancy

Here again we deal with the false idea that we need to eat foods that have the highest absorption rate of iron.  This is NOT the case.  The body will regulate absorption according to need.  Consuming heme-iron which is only found in red meat, chicken contains VERY little iron.  This iron CANNOT be regulated by the body and therefore is absorbed regardless of need.  Whereas in plant-based foods, non-heme iron is heavily regulated based on iron status in the individual.  There are also other regulating factors such as phytic-acid, fiber and other nutrients in foods that help regulate absorption and prevent overload.  Phytic acid and fiber are NOT the enemy, phytic acid has POTENT cancer fighting properties, you can read about that in my article on phytic acid HERE!.  Fiber also plays a vital role in health and regulating mineral uptake is one of them.

Non-heme iron is the perfect form of iron for the human body, it can easily be regulated and absorbed as needed.  Can anemia develop?  Yes.  But it develops in individuals on ALL types of diets, generally there are other factors at play rather than diet including: excessive exercise, heavy menstrual bleeding, ulcers, digestive problems, h. pylori, celiac disease, etc....

How do you ensure adequate Iron from Diet?

1 c. cooked spinach.......................36%
1 c. lentils.......................................37%
1 c. black beans.............................20%
1 large baked potato......................18%
1 c. raw peas.................................12%
1 c. refried beans...........................21%
1 c. Chard.......................................22%
1/4 block tofu..................................22%
1 c. tempeh......................................25%
2 Tb. molasses.................................10%
1 c. oatmeal........................10%


**What if I do become Anemic and need an iron supplement?

I recommend taking Floradix, a plant based iron that is NOT 
constipating and will NOT cause iron overload.


Vitamin D Supplementation

Vitamin D is actually a hormone, not technically a vitamin.  It is produced by the body in response to exposure of sunlight on the skin.  In supplement form there are two types, D2 [ergocalciferol] and D3 [cholecalciferol]
Here we have the same idea that because something is good, or the body needs it, more equals better!  This is absolutely not true.  Vitamin D's main function is to maintain blood levels of calcium and phosphorus.  Excess 
vitamin D according to the Mayo Clinic can cause serious side effects:

"Excess vitamin D intake may increase the risk of falls or fractures. Other potential adverse effects include increased risk of urinary tract infections, decreased appetite, weight loss, an elevated international normalized ratio, hypercalcemia (increased calcium in the blood), hypercalciuria (increased calcium in the urine), hypervitaminosis D (high blood levels of vitamin D), elevated creatinine levels, gastrointestinal complaints, and increased cancer risk.
Vitamin D toxicity can result from regular excess intake of this vitamin and may lead to hypercalcemia, hypercalciuria, and excess bone loss. Individuals at particular risk include those with hyperparathyroidism (overactive parathyroids), kidney disease, sarcoidosis, tuberculosis, or histoplasmosis (examples of immune disorders). Chronic hypercalcemia may lead to serious or even life-threatening complications and should be managed by a physician. Early symptoms of hypercalcemia may include nausea, vomiting, and anorexia (appetite or weight loss), followed by polyuria (excess urination), polydipsia (excess thirst), weakness, fatigue, somnolence, headache, dry mouth, a metallic taste, vertigo (dizziness), tinnitus (ear ringing), and ataxia (unsteadiness). Kidney function may become impaired, and metastatic calcifications (calcium deposition in organs throughout the body) may occur, particularly affecting the kidneys."

According to the Cochrane Review, Vitamin D supplementation did NOT improve bone density in healthy children in any location including the hip, lumbar spine, forearm or in the body as a whole.  http://summaries.cochrane.org/CD006944/vitamin-d-for-improving-bone-density-in-children
Okay, so do we ALL need to take vitamin D supplements in the D3 form that are more highly absorbed [as some claim].  No, we do not.  IF, and only if you are truly deficient in vitamin D do you really need to take any supplement of vitamin D and if you do take D2 you may need a higher dose than if you took D3 but it really isn't a big deal in that regard.

Vitamin D production by the skin in response to sun exposure operates on a feedback loop that prevents toxicity.  We need these feedback loops and 
checks and balances in the body in order to prevent toxicity.

Vitamin D3 or cholecalciferol is what is produced by the skin when exposed to sunlight. Vitamin D2 is produced by plants, namely mushrooms that are exposed to sunlight for 5-15 minutes produce high amounts of vitamin D2.
Technically D2 is not produced or found in the human body normally, however, it is converted in the body into the active forms, however, it's biological activity is about one third that of D3.

Okay, so enough of all the technical stuff, how do you obtain enough vitamin D3?   It is a good idea to first get a blood test to determine if you even have any reason to be concerned about your vitamin D levels.

Once you determine that you do in fact need a supplement, if you live in a climate where you can get outside even in the summer months, get outside more often!  Do not put sunscreen on until you have been in the sun for at least 7 minutes for very light skin and up to 30 minutes for the darkest skin.   
While you are striving to change your habits, you must decide if you want to try to bring up your D levels with D2 [vegetable source] or D3 [animal source].  I'm not going to go into an argument about which you should take as I think it is a personal choice but make sure you determine your personal need for a supplement first.

Plant based diets and B12

This is where the meat heads really try to discredit that humans are physiologically herbivores and they state the vegan diet is not natural to humans.  This is NOT the case!

We do not live in the same world we once did.  B12 is produced by bacteria, in our germophobic, bacteriaphobic society we have completely destroyed any ability the body has to obtain B12 from our natural diet.
 
Research on Iranian villagers with very little animal product intake, dairy maybe once per week and meat intake at once per month had normal B12 levels, no megaloblastic anemia among them and the average B12 level was 411pg.ml which is excellent considering their diet.  The authors speculated that these remarkable results may be due to the fact that their diet is low in protein allowing B12 producing bacteria to ascend into the ileum where it could be absorbed, they lived among farm animals and other areas with feces and other contamination which could contribute to B12 levels.
http://www.veganhealth.org/b12/int#fn8

We do not live in a natural environment like the Iranian villagers, we live in a world of hand sanitizer, antibacterial soap, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, chlorinated water, antibiotics, and the list goes on and on and on!   In this situation, there is no way to ensure that our own intestinal flora is capable of producing adequate B12, some individuals do not develop deficiency even on a vegan diet, but some do and deficiency of B12 can cause a host of health problems.

I DO recommend taking a B12 supplement!

It absolutely MUST be in the methylcobalamin Form!!!!

This is the only  vitamin or mineral supplement that I would recommend to everyone, INCLUDING meat eaters.




Methylcbalamin can be more expensive this one at amazon is a great value and is a good quality.

Okay, basically the moral of the story is DO NOT indiscriminately take vitamin or mineral supplements!  If you really want to take something to help you ensure adequate levels I recommend a couple of 100% whole foods to help:

Vitamineral green



In 2 Tb. of Vitamineral green
Calories........89
Protein...........9g
Iron............. 20mg of plant based iron!!  This is potent, whole food, organic nutrition!
and MUCH MORE!!!!

Dr. Christophers Vital Herbs



Vitamin and Mineral formula, ingredients: Jurassic Green Powder (Certified Organic flash-dried juice powder from Alfalfa, Barley & Kamut), Dandelion, Kelp, Purple Dulse, Spirulina, Irish Moss, Rose Hips, Beet Root, Nutritional Yeast, Cayenne Pepper, Blue Violet, Oatstraw, Carrot & Ginger Root. All encapsulated products are in a pure 100% vegetable based capsule. 

A synergistic blend of popular whole nutritional food for the body. Take with the Jurassic Green Powder. May be used as often as needed. If sensitive to this formula, it may be taken with meals or your favorite juice.

Both are completely safe for all stages of life from weaning, childhood, pregnancy, breastfeeding, etc....

My biggest recommendation is GET YOUR NUTRIENTS FROM FOOD 
FIRST!

Green smoothies are an EXCELLENT way to do this, as an example:

*Sweet Berry Blast Smoothie
1  c. water
1 c. frozen mixed berries
1 1/2 c. Swiss chard
1 frozen banana
1/2 c. cucumber
1 rib celery
4 dates
3 drops vanilla cream sweet leaf stevia
1 Tb. flax meal


Nutrition breakdown for the Sweet Berry Blast Breakfast Smoothie:
Calories
290
Protein
6g
Fiber
50% daily value
Omega 3's
153%
Vit. A
163%
Folate
23%
B1
23%
B2
26%
B3
14%
B5
25%
B6
55%
Vit. C
86%
Vit. E
13%
Vit. K
546%
Calcium
11%
Iron
17%
Zinc
16%
Magnesium
46%
Manganese
84%
Potassium
26%

All that nutrition in one simple smoothie!  That is a REAL vitamin or mineral supplement with all the phytonutrients and co-factors your body needs to optimal health and vitality. 

***If you want to boost the calcium levels in any smoothie....add 1 Tb. sesame seeds and add another 10% of your daily value!

2 comments:

Kelly @ Leafy Not Beefy said...

Great post, Tandi! And that berry blast smoothie sounds delicious :)

Tandi said...

Kelly, thanks I'm glad you enjoyed the post and yes the berry smoothie is yummy!