Even the most nutritious diets fail to provide essential nutrients at optimal levels. A diet that is 75% fruits/vegetables and %25 lean meat is best, yet because of modern agriculture and lifestyles, whole food is not enough for most people. There is an important role for supplements.
I’m often asked what supplements are most important. Based on the research that I’ve read, these 5 are the most important. Please also know that 1) you cannot supplement your way out of a bad diet and 2) there is no magic formulation (blueberry, acai, broccoli reductions, whatever) that replace these key nutrients.
1) EPA/DHA: Also known as Omega 3 Fatty Acid or “Fish Oil,” this essential fatty acid is a strong anti-inflammatory. Since inflammation is responsible for all types of degenerative diseases, this supplement has been implicated as being beneficial for problems ranging from arthritis to eczema. In fact, scientific trials have demonstrated EPA/DHA to be effective for treating arthritis pain, decreasing cardiac disease risk factors, and lowering cholesterol. If an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, 3 grams of EPA/DHA is worth a cure for heart disease, knee replacements, cholesterol problems…
2) Multivitamin: No; it’s not too easy. The single source of a myriad of essentials should not be overlooked. Even with the healthiest of diets, micronutrient deficiency can occur in the absence of a multi-vitamin. This is because the soils in which foods grow have become depleted from minerals and micronutrients. While scurvy and beriberi are diseases found only in history books, current problems of micronutrient deficiency include cardiovascular disease, neurological developmental problems, and DNA damage. A standard multivitamin has the right dose for most people. Also, all women of childbearing age should intake 800 micrograms of folic acid per day. That dose may require her to take a separate folic acid tablet.
3) Calcium: There are several forms of calcium one can take. If calcium cannot be absorbed from the gut it is useless for our body. Calcium as a mixture of hydroxyapatite and dicalcium phosphate is the most useful to the body. Calcium is integral for developing and maintaining strong bones. Unfortunately, despite many foods being fortified with calcium, 1 in 5 older adults will develop osteoporotic fractures at some point. Preventing fractures with nutrition should start in one’s youth, and involve all 5 of these nutritional supplements.
4) Magnesium: This nutrient may be the most overlooked according to current public health studies. All cell function, DNA production, and tissue healing (some 300 different processes) require magnesium. Thus magnesium deficiency results in all types of degenerative diseases. Additionally, magnesium is essential for proper calcium utilization. In fact, one should supplement with an approximate 2:1 ratio of calcium to magnesium. A more specific way to determine the right dose is to take 6mg of magnesium per kilogram of body weight. You can convert pounds to kilograms by dividing by 2.20.
5) Vitamin D: Like magnesium, vitamin D is essential for proper calcium utilization. More than a vitamin, D is a steroid hormone produced by the body. With 45 minutes of full sun exposure, while wearing only a bathing suit, your skin produces 20,000 units of the hormone. Although it looks like a lot, that amount is about 4 days worth of vitamin D. The problem is that most people wear clothes, use sunscreen, or work inside. During the winter, most of the United States don’t get enough overhead sunlight to activate vitamin D production. As a result, vitamin D deficiency is an epidemic, resulting in diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis, chronic pain, and many other common diseases. Your supplementation should be managed by a health professional to ensure accurate dosing (from 400-50,000 units).
EPA/DHA may interact with other medications, and the amount of vitamin D in the blood should be checked to ensure the appropriate dose (D3 replenishment dose can range from 500IU to 50,000IU per day). So check with one of our doctors before starting to supplement.
Additionally, supplement quality varies greatly. It is a largely unregulated industry. Some supplement companies reach high levels of certification. To ensure that the product can be appropriately absorbed contains the right ingredients, and is free of contaminants, always look for GMP certification (good manufacturing process) by the Natural Products Association. That’s why I offer Metagenics brand supplements at Cole Pain Therapy Group. I have a lot of confidence in Metagenics quality and value.
Some more really great reading:
- The Polymeal: a more natural, safer, and probably tastier (than the Polypill) strategy to reduce cardiovascular disease by more than 75%.
- Vitamins for chronic disease prevention in adults: clinical applications.
- Benefits and requirements of vitamin D for optimal health: a review.
- Dietary magnesium intake in a national sample of US adults.