According to a number of sources, about 68% of Americans use supplements on a regular basis. About half of adults take more than one supplement. The most popular: a multivitamin, calcium, Omega 3.
What about centenarians? Have they taken supplements to get where they are (at least 100 years old) and do they keep taking them? In this blog, let’s review the necessity of micronutrients and why supplementation might be a good choice, In our next blog, we’ll look at some factors to help make wise choices about which supplements to use.
General Information About Vitamins and Minerals
13 vitamins are deemed necessary for good bodily function (8 B-vitamins, A, C, D, E and K).
Another descriptor of vitamins is important to note: “When applied to certain nutrients, the word ‘essential has a special meaning: an essential vitamin cannot be built within the body from other molecules. It can only be obtained intact from food and supplements. Necessary minerals are also ‘essential.’ (GlycoScience and Nutrition, vol. 2, No. 16).
Vitamins and minerals perform and assist in performing many crucial roles in the body. There are books, articles, and online blogs that are full of details about the function of individual micronutrients, and I encourage you to explore sources other than this blog for that kind of information.
What this implies to me is that we need these micro-nutrients to function optimally, and although they are available from a well-structured plant-based diet, many people need to source these micronutrients from supplements. Let’s be honest: a well-structured plant-based diet is simply not on very many people’s plates!
Reasons for Supplementation
Although our government has established Recommended Dietary Allowances of selected nutrients, “80% of American children and 68% of American adults fail to consume the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables each day.” (Glycoscience and Nutrition, referenced previously). These per centages were taken from an article published in 1999. Is there any reason to believe that these numbers have improved in the last 20 years?
For our centenarians, other reasons for supplementation can be considered: increased free radical damage, mostly from our environment and lifestyle, results in age-related diseases that shorten life; fewer balanced meals; reduced food intake (and therefore less nutrients) in an attempt to reduce weight.
In the book Living to Be 100, the author Michael E Howard records a number of statements that summarize the experience of centenarians with supplements. “As people age, the body loses its ability to absorb certain nutrients…. The practice of many centenarians in western countries to take a multivitamin seems to have some benefit for optimal health and longevity.” (pp 116, 117).
Indications About Micronutrients from Studies
Some studies indicate higher than normal levels of Vitamin A and C in centenarians, presumably from their increased intake of fruits and vegetables. Some cultures that have regular sun exposure (i.e. Okinawans) have higher levels of Vitamin D, and as a further benefit have half the number of hip fractures of Americans who fortify many foods with vitamin D as well as calcium. (Interesting!).
Effects of Medications on Availability of Micronutrients
Consideration: as a person ages, medical doctors seem to be very quick to deal with a symptom by writing a prescription. How many people do you know over the age of 40 who are not taking any medications?
Years ago, I took a course, “Laboratory Evaluations in Molecular Medicine.” The most fascinating take-away from the class for me was a new awareness of the documented drug-induced nutrient depletions, that is, the loss of nutrients caused by medications. The material was published in 2001, 17 years ago. The proliferation of medications in the past 17 years is astounding, the number of people in the US who are on medications is overwhelming, and the implications for long-term side effects is well-documented. The resulting nutritional deficiencies can be found from a variety of online sources (not available 17 years ago!).
Making a Decision About Supplementation
There are thousands of nutritional products/supplements on the shelves of Costco, Wal-Mart, Target, drug stores like CVS and Walgreen’s! There are even more options online. Almost everyone has family and friends who are recommending the latest product from their experience that has ‘changed their life!!’
How do you make that decision about what is necessary, beneficial and effective for you?
We’re going to address that in the next blog- this one is already quite long-however, you can check out this website for information about the science-based products that I recommend. Look at the ‘Product’ tab, then look for PhytoMatrix (caplets) and Nutriverus (general wellness product, powder) . Under both of those products you will find that there are more ‘details’ available.
If you have immediate questions, please feel free to contact me by phone/text 480.382.8255.
I look forward to helping you get on track to be a healthy centenarian!