Most health-conscious individuals do their best to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. But that’s not enough.
Problem: Few people consider the nutrients that are lost after produce is harvested. For example, green vegetables lose almost all of their vitamin C after just a few days of storage at room temperature. What’s more, cooking can deplete up to 50% of a variety of vitamins.
Solution: Many doctors now recommend vitamin and mineral supplements to compensate for dietary deficiencies and help prevent chronic diseases, such as heart disease, macular degeneration and osteoarthritis.
Everyone should take a daily multivitamin that provides all of the essential minerals and B vitamins, along with antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E.
Good brands: Solgar and Enzymatic Therapy. Unfortunately, once-a-day supplements provide only minimal levels of some important nutrients.
If you have or are at risk for one or more of the conditions listed below, you may benefit from taking, in addition to your multivitamin, the following supplements in higher-than-normal “therapeutic” doses.
Millions of Americans age 65 or older suffer from Alzheimer’s disease or age-related memory loss. Many of these older adults are deficient in B vitamins, especially B-12.
• B-complex supplement
B-complex supplement provides the full complement of B vitamins, including B-l, B-2, B-3, B-6 and B-12.
Topical daily therapeutic dose: 50 to 100 milligrams (mg) of B-complex plus 500 to 1,000 micrograms (mcg) of B-12 in a separate supplement
• Alpha-lipoic acid
Alpha-lipoic acid improves brain function by slowing or stopping the death of nerve cells.
Typical daily therapeutic dose: 600 mg.
• Vitamin E
Vitamin E protects brain cells from damage caused by disease-causing molecules known as free radicals.
Typical daily therapeutic dose: 1,200 international units (IU).
• Ginkgo biloba
Ginkgo biloba improves brain circulation, reduces free-radical damage and may slow the onset of Alzheimer’s.
Typical daily therapeutic dose: 240 mg.
Warning: If you are taking a blood-thinning medication, such as warfarin (Coumadin), consult your doctor before taking vitamin E or ginkgo biloba. Both have a mild blood-thinning effect.
The standard drugs such as nitroglycerin for treating angina and statins for lowering cholesterol mainly manage heart disease symptoms, not the underlying causes. Statins lower levels of harmful LDL cholesterol, but they also deplete coenzyme Q10 (CoQlO) from heart cells. This naturally occurring enzyme is believed to strengthen the heart muscle.
All people with heart disease should ask their cardiologist about taking it. Studies have demonstrated that CoQlO improves symptoms associated with congestive heart failure, angina and other heart disorders. In some cases, people who take the enzyme are even able to reduce their doses of heart medications.
Typical daily therapeutic dose: 50 to 300 mg. Start with the lower dose and gradually increase it until you notice a reduction of symptoms. Do not stop taking CoQlO abruptly. Doing so can cause a rebound of symptoms.
• Fish oil
Fish oil lowers levels of C-reactive protein, a “marker” for artery inflammation that accompanies heart disease.
Typical daily therapeutic dose: 3 to 6 grams (g).
Helpful: Enteric-coated fish oil capsules dissolve in the intestine and are less likely than other products to cause a fishy taste when you burp.
Warning: Fish oil capsules can have a blood thinning effect.
• Antioxidant supplements
Antioxidant supplements prevent cell damage in artery walls and reduce inflammation.
Typical daily therapeutic dose: 400 to 1,200 IU vitamin E, 1 to 4 g vitamin C and 25,000 IU natural beta-carotene.
Niacin works as well as some statins at lowering total cholesterol and it increases levels of beneficial HDL cholesterol. Combining niacin with a statin may allow you to take a lower dose of the statin drug. Because niacin can cause flushing, look for a “flush-free” product. At high doses, niacin can also cause liver problems, so use it only under a doctor’s supervision.
Typical daily therapeutic dose: 2 g
Macular degeneration is caused by a breakdown of the macula, the part of the retina that is responsible for central vision. It’s the main cause of severe vision loss in people age 50 or older.
Carotenoids, especially beta-carotene and lutein, are used by the eye to build and repair damaged cells.
Typical daily therapeutic dose: 25,000 IU natural beta-carotene and 10 to 15 mg lutein.
• Vitamin E
Vitamin E reduces oxidative stress in the eye and prevents further damage.
Typical daily therapeutic dose: 800 IU.
Zinc is used by the eye to manufacture chemical compounds that aid vision.
Typical daily therapeutic dose: 22 to 50 mg.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and the leading cause of pain and disability in older Americans. Anti-inflammatory analgesics, such as ibuprofen (Advil), are effective but often cause side effects, such as gastrointestinal bleeding.
• Fish oil
Fish oil reduces levels of arachidonic acid, a fatty acid that forms inflammatory, joint-damaging chemicals known as prostaglandins.
Typical daily therapeutic dose: 3 to 6 g.
• Vitamins C and E
Vitamins C and E block the effects of inflammatory free radicals in the joints. They work synergistically with fish oil to enhance its effects.
Typical daily therapeutic dose: 4 g vitamin C and 400 to 1,200 IU vitamin E.
Quercetin, a plant-based flavonoid, relieves pain as well as ibuprofen does.
Typical daily therapeutic dose: 2 to 4 g.