The year was 2002 when the American Medical Association (AMA) reversed its stance regarding the use of vitamin supplements and advised every American to take at least one multi-vitamin a day! For the previous 20 years, the AMA had promoted an official anti-vitamin-supplement policy and offered their scorn to those who suggested that vitamin supplementation offered any health benefits.
Their 2002 announcement was vindication for the many health professionals who had advocated the use of vitamin supplements while for years enduring the criticism of the U.S. health establishment. Finally, the AMA was admitting that the American diet alone does not provide adequate nutrition for optimum health. However, their announcement stopped short of explaining what the true role of vitamin supplements should be.
Vitamin Amounts - How Much Is Enough?
Data compiled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture revealed that a minimum of 40% of the American population consumes a diet that provides only 60% of the RDA of ten selected nutrients. This means that half (maybe more) of the U.S. population has a deficiency of at least one vitamin. Now, this by itself sounds startling, but consider this.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration established the RDAs to give guidance for the avoidance of the symptoms of deficiency diseases. For example, the RDA of 60 mg. for vitamin C is the daily amount needed to avoid the symptoms of diseases like beriberi or scurvy. The RDA of 60 mg. is not the amount of vitamin C needed for optimal bodily function. Health professionals routinely recommend a minimum daily intake of 1,000 mg. of vitamin C and 3,000 - 5,000 mg. daily is common.
The RDA for vitamin B-1 is 1.5 mg.; amounts of 50 - 100 mg. daily are recommended by health professionals. The RDA for vitamin B-6 is 2 mg.; amounts of 50 - 100 mg daily are recommended. The RDA for vitamin B-12 is 6 mcg.; amounts of 200 - 400 mcg. daily are recommended.
A similar finding is true for all the RDA amounts established for vitamins and mineral supplements. This means that an ordinary OTC "multi-vitamin" promoting the old RDAs will offer only minimal benefits. When you select a multiple-vitamins supplement, you will want to choose one that offers a high enough daily dosage to provide nutrient amounts that enable good health.
Before using any supplements, you should consult with your doctor or health care professional, but here is a partial list of nutrient amounts you can use as a guide: Vitamin A (5,000 to 10,000 I.U.), Vitamin B-1 (50 - 100 mg.), Vitamin B-2 (15 - 50 mg.), Vitamin B-3 (15 - 50 mg.), Vitamin B-5 (50 - 100 mg.), Vitamin B-6 (50 - 100 mg.), Vitamin B-12 (200 - 400 mcg.), Biotin (400 - 800 mcg.), Choline (50 - 200 mg.), Folic Acid (400 - 800 mcg.), Inositol (50 - 200 mg.), PABA (10 50 mg.), Vitamin C (1,000 - 3,000 mg.), Vitamin D-3 (400 I.U.), Vitamin E (200 - 400 I.U.), Vitamin K (100 - 500 mcg.).
Natural Vitamins or Synthetic?
You will find that vitamin supplements are divided into two groups: synthetic and natural. The synthetic vitamins are produced in laboratories from isolated chemicals and mirror their counterparts found in nature.
Natural vitamins are derived from food sources. Chemically, there may be no difference, but synthetic vitamins contain only the isolated vitamin while natural supplements may contain other synergistic nutrients not yet discovered.
Generally, it is believed that synthetic and natural vitamins perform the same, but two noted exceptions are vitamins D and E. The synthetic forms are different than their natural counterparts. Most health care professionals recommend only the natural forms of these two vitamins. Natural vitamin D is identified as Vitamin D-3 and Natural Vitamin E is identified as d-alpha (not dl-alpha) tocopherol.
Synthetic supplements may also contain coal tars, artificial coloring, preservatives, sugars, and starch and other harmful additives. You should also be aware that a supplement may be labeled "natural" and still have these harmful additives. Read labels carefully.
Vitamins found in nature do not exist in free form. They are protein-bonded. Nutritional studies have revealed that protein-bonded vitamins, such as found in whole food supplements, are best absorbed, utilized and retained in body tissues better than vitamins that are not protein-bonded. Vitamins and minerals found in food are bonded to proteins, lipids, carbohydrates, and bioflavonoids. Chemically derived vitamins are not protein-bonded.
What About Minerals?
Excesses of isolated vitamins or minerals can cause the same symptoms as the deficiency of vitamins or minerals. Therefore, having the correct balance of vitamins and minerals is very important.
It is best to select a broad spectrum multi-vitamins / minerals supplement because there is a cooperative action between certain vitamins and minerals. For example, the following shows the relationship between a listed vitamin and the nutrient(s) required for assimilation: Vitamin A (plus choline, essential fatty acids, vitamin C, D and E), Vitamin B complex (plus calcium, vitamin C and E), Vitamin B6 (plus potassium, vitamin B complex, vitamin C).
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