Going over a few more vitamins

Published 10:00 am Friday, November 18, 2011

This is the third installment in a series on dietary supplements. Before getting back to minerals, I’d like to go over a few more vitamins. Let’s start with vitamin D.
Vitamin D is actually not a vitamin at all, but rather  acts more like a hormone. One of vitamin D’s biggest roles is in maintaining bone density. Vitamin D is sometimes called the sunshine vitamin, because your skin can synthesize it from ultraviolet light.
In fact, studies show that as people live farther from the equator, they are at greater risk of breast, colon, ovarian and prostate cancer. Daily allowance: 400-800IU.
Vitamin E. Next to vitamin C, vitamin E is America’s most popular vitamin, and with good reason. Many studies suggest that vitamin E acts as a powerful antioxidant and helps in the prevention of certain age related diseases like cancer and heart disease by protecting tissues and other substances from oxidation. Vitamin E is a group of fat-soluble compounds such as alpha-, beta-,  delta-, and gamma- tocopherol; and alpha-, beta-, delta-, and gamma-tocotrienol.
Most research done, though, has been on alpha-tocopherol. Vitamin E slows the aging process by helping cells have a longer life. Studies suggest it helps the immune system, helps with wound healing, lessens fibrocystic breast disease in women and, along with vitamin C and beta carotene, even helps prevent cataracts. Daily allowance: 400-600IU. (I actually prefer vitamin E succinate, which is a dry, water-soluble form).
Vitamin K. We not only get vitamin K from food, but we produce it from bacteria in our intestines. One of vitamin K’s roles is in the function of blood clotting. Deficiencies of vitamin K have also been linked to osteoporosis (loss of bone density) and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). Daily allowance: I recommend you check with your physician before supplementing your diet with vitamin K, especially if you are on anticoagulant therapy.
Okay, back to minerals and phosphorus.
Phosphorus is actually the second most abundant mineral in the body. This means the average person is carrying around about 1.5 pounds of it. Most of it is found in our bones and teeth (about 80-90 percent). Phosphorus plays a vital role in energy, metabolism, muscle contraction, nerve impulses, hormone secretion and protein synthesis. Daily allowance: 200mg.
Magnesium. Magnesium is also needed for health teeth and bones, but it, along with sodium, potassium and calcium, affects the muscle tone of blood vessels. This has been shown to help control cardiovascular disease. Daily allowance: 500-750mg.
Zinc. Zinc is necessary for the production of more than twenty enzymes associated with different metabolic functions by the body. It helps treat mental and physical stress and is essential for proper vision. Zinc helps keep the immune system strong, and the prostate gland healthy. Deficiencies in zinc can lead to complications in diabetics, and there also seems to be a link between deficiencies in zinc and those with anorexia nervosa.
Iron. Iron is another nutrient that’s found in every cell in the body. Most of the iron in our bodies (about 75%) is found in our red blood cells in the form of hemoglobin.
Hemoglobin is a protein-iron compound that serves as sort of a “glue” that bonds oxygen to red blood cells. This oxygen is then carried, released ,and held by every cell in the body. If the body’s iron stores are depleted, anemia results.
Anemia symptoms include fatigue, difficulty swallowing, heart palpitations during exertion, irritability and a general lack of well being.
Iron also serves as a catalyst for a variety of enzymatic reactions throughout the body. It’s also important for a healthy immune system. Even though we need iron, too much can also be dangerous. Some studies suggest that too much stored iron in the body may even cause heart disease. Our bodies have ways to regulate our iron levels, but remember iron can be toxic. Daily allowance: 15mg.
While it’s true vitamins and minerals are essential for optimum health, it’s equally true that starting a supplement regimen may be contraindicated because of certain medications, or even medical conditions you may have that you’re not even aware of.
Always check with your physician first. We’ll finish the list next week.
David Crocker of Landrum has been a nutritionist for 24 years. He served as strength director of the Spartanburg Y.M.C.A., head strength coach for the S.C. state champion girls gymnastic team, USC-Spartanburg baseball team, Converse collge equestrian team, lead trainer to L.H. Fields modeling agency and taught four semesters at USC-Union. David was also a regular guest of the Pam Stone radio show.

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