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Doctors Forum -- Our Basic Supplement Needs: Experts' Common Views

  [ 45 votes ]   [ Discuss This Article ]
By Source: Health News & Review • • April 1, 1995

As new research emerges, the array of recommended nutritional supplements essential to good health grows and grows. Most people balk at the expense of so many pills and the time involved in sorting them out. What do you consider the three or four most important vitamins, minerals and/or herbs that a well-nourished, healthy adult take on a daily basis as "health insurance"?

Neil Orenstein, Ph.D., is a nutritional biochemist in private practice in Lenox, Massachusetts. HE is the author of The Immune System, published by Keats Publishing,

I believe that the most important supplemental nutrients that a person can take are antioxidants. Damage by free radicals underlies all serious degenerative disease. Free radical pathology plays a significant role in the pathogenesis of cardiovascular disease, cancer and all immune system imbalances.

Free radicals are the biological equivalent of rust. When free radicals are generated it is as if we are rusting from the inside out. Antioxidant nutrients quench and destroy free radicals much in the same way that Rustoleum paint prevents rust. Just as you need to paint a piece of iron porch furniture every several years to renew the properties of the anti-rust paint, you continually need to take antioxidant nutrients.

Damage by free radicals underlies all of the serious degenerative disease.

The use of antioxidant nutrients is critical in preventing serious disease. The four most significant biological antioxidants are vitamin C (ascorbic acid), beta carotene (not animal-derived vitamin A), vitamin E (tocopherol) and the mineral selenium. I believe that it is useful to take all of these nutrients in a supplemental form every day.

Obviously, since selenium has a potential for toxicity, the amount of selenium taken needs to be well thought out. As a general guideline, I would recommend the following levels: vitamin C, 750 mg; beta carotene, 15,000 IU; vitamin E, 400 IU; and selenium, 200 mcg micrograms). To reduce cost and to make these supplemental nutrients as easy as possible to take, I recommend finding a multiple vitamin that has these quantities of the key antioxidant nutrients.

Pavel I. Yutsis, M.D. is the Medical Director of the Advanced Preventive Medical Group in Brooklyn, New York, and is a consultant at the Atkins Center for Complementary Medicine in New York City. He is currently at work on a book on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

There are a number of multiple vitamin/multiple mineral formulas on the market that can sustain one's energy, maintain metabolism and support the multiple functions of the complex ultra-machine called the human body. I consider it a great challenge to choose just three or four nutrients, but I will accept this challenge.

Toss in exercise and a positive mental outlook and you have the makings of a long, healthy life.

My first nutrient in this list would be vitamin C. It is an excellent antioxidant that will support appropriate tissue repair, stimulate tissue growth and stimulate function of the adrenals. It is known that vitamin C protects against the harmful effects of our environment and prevents infection. It is useful for the regulation of cholesterol metabolism; it is essential in the formation of collagen tissues; and it protects against the harmful effects of blood clotting and bruising. Vitamin C also participates in the production of anti-stress mediators and promotes wound healing.

Pantothine complex (pantothine and pantothenic acid) is my second choice. It is one of the most important adrenal supporters and anti-stress vitamins. It participates in the production antibodies and vital steroids, and it is essential in the production and metabolism of cortisone in the adrenals. Pantothine complex represents an essential part of coenzyme A, which is essential for the metabolism of every single cell and tissue. Pantothine complex helps to produce energy from micronutrients. A body of exciting studies has proved that pantothine can stimulate and promote growth of "friendly bacteria' in the gut.

Magnesium is one of the most important minerals and is known to be the activator for over 300 different enzymes. In my opinion, it should be used as a supplement for every healthy adult to prevent symptoms of magnesium deficiency such as chronic fatigue and exhaustion, high blood pressure, headaches, irritability, nervousness, anxiety, depression, muscle spasms, bronchial asthma and more.

Coenzyme Q10, also known as ubiquinone, is a vitamin-like substance that possesses antioxidant properties. Its presence in the body usually decreases with age, and therefore it should be supplemented in the diet. Research has revealed that it benefits heart disease, high blood pressure, allergies, asthma, and respiratory problems; it maintains brain integrity and is extremely useful in periodontal disease. It maintains energy and metabolism of the human body.

Thus, my vote for the four most important preventive supplements would go to vitamin C, pantothine, magnesium and coenzyme CQ10.

Thomas T. Brunoski, M.D. also holds an M.S, in nutrition the Institute of Human Nutrition of Columbia Medical School. He practices nutritional medicine in Westport, Connecticut, specializing in the treatment of food and inhalant allergies.

If I were stuck on a desert island and have one and only one vitamin I would choose vitamin C. Thousands of studies have shown vitamin C to be the most useful in both preventive and therapeutic benefits, as well as in the number of conditions it can benefit. Vitamin C is truly the queen of supplements.

Given that I live in America, where the diet is not nearly as good as it would be on a desert island, I would hasten to add a good quality multi-vitamin/multi-mineral combination. There are many good, and plenty not so good, formulations available. I would look for a B complex content of about 75 mg for each of the B vitamins, a reasonable amount of calcium and magnesium, no more than 35 to 50 mg of zinc (too much depresses immune function), and no iron or iodine, which call cause problems. The for- mula should be designed for twice a day dosage. Most supplements are water soluble, and just as you would take most medicines, like penicillin, two or three times a day to keep them working, take your vitamins twice daily. This keeps them working around the clock. But don't take one-a-day vitamins twice daily; you will get too much of certain nutrients.

With the above regimen and a good diet, I'd start feeling pretty comfortable. To substantially add to my peace of mind, I would add some extra vitamin E, so that my daily total is about 1000 to 1200 IU daily, and I'd be sure I'm getting beta carotene on the order of 25,000 to 35,000 IU daily. Toss in exercise at least four times weekly and a positive mental outlook, and you have the makings of a long, healthy life.

Reprinted from Health News and Review by permission of Keats Publishing, Inc.

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