So how nutritious is your food? How much calcium, vitamins and iron do you really get out of your food? And how's a person supposed to know?
Well, if you look to the CDC's recent release of their seven-year long project, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, then there's not much to worry about. On average, only 1 to 10% of those tested were nutritionally deficient in any given vitamin or mineral.
But how can you know? How do you know if you get enough folate or omega-3 fatty acids? And how much does your food contain, anyways? Do we need vitamin and mineral supplements? To summarize my answer to these and many more questions, please take a few minutes and view this highly informative, engaging and inspirational video by Dr. Terry Walhs MD.
Since whole organic fruits and vegetables are where it's at, recently I was inspired to create a lunch that Dr. Walhs would approve of. Seen below, it's a garden salad and sauteed vegetables, complete with many colors and sulfur-containing foods.
So if you don't get enough nutrients from your food alone, how can you tell? In developing countries and areas where access to food is limited, the types of malnutrition seen there (e.g. poor development, brittle hair and teeth) is much more severe than the insidious type seen in America: overweight and overfed but nutritionally poor diet. I would call this nutritional insufficiency. What can that look like?
Some one lacking in one or more of our basic vitamins and minerals may experience headaches, poor concentration, low stamina, poor wound healing, many different skin complaints, tension, nervousness, depression and/or low energy. Might you know any one with one or more of these complaints?
Let me know any specifics I can answer on the above raised topics or feel free to write below any responses this topic raises. I am eager to answer readers' questions, but as always, the material here is no substitute for careful and conscientious medical advice.
Naturopathic physicians are experts at dietary analysis and can identify unique nutritional deficiencies or insufficiencies you may have. This is after taking into consideration any one of a number of common complaints which are seen as "normal" but may in fact be easily treated with a few simple dietary changes. Please check in with your local ND for concerns specific to your situation.
So it looks like vitamins don't help us and may actually hasten our demise. Or at least that's the message the Wall Street Journal is wanting us to take away from recent research published in the Archives of Internal Medicine (article found here), titling their article, "Is This the End of Popping Vitamins?"
Well, in answer to their question, I hope not. Let me lay out this recent research publication, what it shows, and what it doesn't.
Highlights of the publication are that it was an epidemiological study, gathering self-reported data from tens of thousands of elderly white women over 18 years.
When controlling for (data analysis attempting to factor in differences of) age, height, education, a few chronic diseases (diabetes, high blood pressure, hormone replacement), activity level and smokers, it found these affects on the hazard ratio (increase risk of death):
But wait just a minute before you throw out all those vitamins and supplements out of the medicine cabinet (well, maybe the dusty ones can go).
Here's a few points to consider when evaluating how to use journal publications like this when making health care considerations:
And this makes sense to me. I don't expect any given supplement to decrease mortality rates across tens of thousands of people. I do, however, expect them to work for most people when specifically indicated (B6 for nerve and adrenal support, or magnesium for vasodilation and muscle relaxation).
So before you give up on supplements proving themselves in the scientific literature, make sure you're looking in the right places. NDNR and Natural Standard both offer plentiful information on vitamin, mineral and herbal supplementation with scientific backing.
For those interested in positive effects found of supplementation of the mid-aged and elderly as reported by NIH, please check out the articles here and here. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that "modest" supplementation of middle-aged women slowed the aging process. You can find that article here.
In general, I hope that those of you interested in your health are taking supplements for well-indicated reasons from knowledgeable sources, although the Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics found that vitamin D and omega 3 fatty acids was beneficial for anyone (the article here called it a "metabolic tune-up").
The issue as to supplements' efficacy and beneficence will not be resolved with a single publication. I anticipate following the research-lead discourse for some tim. Please let me know if you'd like more information about specific supplements and research outcomes. Thank you for reading.
Women commonly take calcium supplements (especially when entering middle age and beyond), but dosage and reasoning is often not well described. How much information out there is research based, and how much is fear based?
Recent research from the British Medical Journal (article here), followed women for 19 years and compared calcium supplement dosages to rates of development of fractures. The results? Calcium supplementation maxes out its benefit around 750mg, with more not translating to better in terms of fracture rates.
Another piece of the women-calcium-fracture puzzle is that massively increasing calcium supplementation later in life (such as after an initial osteopenia or osteoporosis diagnosis) has minimal impact on bone density and fracture prevention by that point.
The authors' conclusions are that in terms of public health focus, attention should be paid to younger women with low dietary calcium intake, and away from loading up older women on calcium megadoses. So their take home advice is to start early, with diet, to prevent chronic disease later in life. Makes sense, I like it.
The last piece I can offer to this topic here is for interested readers to consult a Nutritionist or Naturopathic Doctor, as there are many dietary, supplementary and lifestyle variables to consider for one concerned about personal or family history of low bone density. Thank you for reading.