General Vitamin and Mineral and Supplement Recommendations
Richard Gracer, M.D.
The following is an overview of GMG’s general recommendations for vitamins and supplements. We feel that most people need a foundation of nutritional support. Depending upon each person’s specific needs, other supplements and lifestyle changes including dietary regimens, exercise, allergen avoidance, and at times, medications must be added to this base.
The Food and Nutrition Board of the National Research Council has been setting guidelines for Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA’s) for vitamins and minerals since 1941. This was originally intended to correct the severe deficiency problems that existed at that time. These included scurvy (vitamin C deficiency), pellagra (niacin deficiency) and rickets (vitamin D deficiency). It has been estimated that only one-third of all Americans gets even the RDA of vitamins and minerals from their diets. In reality, those that have the most problems with their health are much more likely to be malnourished.
Over the years, research has shown that many of the RDA’s are much lower than what I term the optimal level. In addition, there are many groups of people, such as alcoholics and smokers, who have special needs for increased levels of specific nutrients. For example, vitamin C blood levels in smokers are much lower than in nonsmokers. Smokers probably require more than twice as much vitamin C and other antioxidants than nonsmokers just to keep up with the high amounts of poisons they inhale each day.
The elderly have particular problems with absorbing nutrients. A recent study from Canada divided the elderly population in New Brunswick into two groups. One group received placebo, the other a multiple vitamin and mineral with doses somewhat higher than the RDA. The results were dramatic. The half that got the vitamins had less than 1/2 the illness and hospitalizations. In addition, sophisticated blood tests showed their immune systems functioned at a much higher level than the placebo group. (New Brunswick Supplementation Trial, 1990)
Many vitamins and supplements have been shown to be beneficial for treatment of important health problems. When used in this way, they should be viewed as medications in that they are often prescribed in what can be termed as mega-doses. When used in this manner, they should be a part of a comprehensive nutritional and lifestyle program, not just used to cover-up symptoms. Unfortunately, we usually prescribe regular drugs to do just that!
Comprehensive High Quality Multiple Vitamin and Mineral Supplement – 4-6 Capsules per Day
For those in general good health, I recommend the use of a comprehensive high quality multiple vitamin and mineral supplement. Many of these already contain high doses of the antioxidants, vitamin C, vitamin E, betacarotene and vitamin A, selenium, and even some of the bioflavinoids such as quercetin and pycnogenol (the active part of grape seeds). If not, these should be taken additionally. These supplements are usually taken as between 4 to 6 capsules or tablets daily.
The once daily multivitamins (such as Centrum), while MUCH better than nothing, really do not contain enough of many substances, particularly the antioxidants and are not properly balanced to allow you to take several daily. For example, there are usually only 35 to 65 units of vitamin E in each of these tablets. In order to get my recommended dose, one would have to take between 10 and 15 of them. On the other hand, they often contain up to 400 units of vitamin D. If one were to take 10-15, they would be taking a dangerous overdose of this vitamin.
Daily Use of Flaxseed Oil
I also recommend daily use of flaxseed oil, an excellent source of essential fatty acids (EFA’s), those fats that our bodies cannot make. In addition, flaxseed oil has beneficial effects in cardiovascular disease, and decreases inflammation in general, making it important for those with arthritis, asthma, and many other conditions. Our foods lack these EFA’s, while they are filled with artificial trans-fats, a major cause of the degenerative diseases that we see in our society.
Recommended Vitamin and Mineral Daily Intakes for Adults:
- Boron, 5 mg (Boron appears to be very important for prevention osteoporosis)
- Calcium, 500-1500 mg (women nearing menopausal age and those that are post menopausal should take at least 1500 mg of calcium. It is not possible to get enough calcium from milk products in the diet and in fact, milk products are probably not healthy for most adults)
- Chromium, 200-400 micrograms (chromium is extremely important for diabetics and those with insulin resistance. If your triglycerides are high and your HDL cholesterol is low, you need extra chromium)
- Copper, 2 mg (Copper is essential for formation of normal blood vessels. It you are taking extra zinc, you must take copper as well because they are absorbed in a similar way and the zinc will interfere with copper’s absorption)
- Iron, 15-30 mgs (this is for menstruating women only. Men and postmenopausal women should not take extra iron. This can cause increased risk of heart disease)
- Magnesium, 300-500 mg (we usually recommend a 2:1 ratio of calcium to magnesium. Magnesium is very important for most of the important enzymes that work inside the cells. Almost everyone taking diuretics or who has heart disease is low in magnesium. It is very important in bone formation is well)
- Manganese, 10-50 milligrams
- Molybdenum, 10-25 micrograms
- Potassium, 100-200 mg
- Selenium, 200 micrograms (Selenium is probably the most important antioxidant mineral. It has recently been shown to dramatically decrease risk of lung, breast, and colon cancer)
- Vanadium, 50-100 micrograms (Several animal studies have shown vanadium to make cells more sensitive to insulin and may be an excellent supplement to help diabetics control their sugar)
- Zinc, 15-50 milligrams (Zinc is extremely important for maintenance of our immune system. Is also essential in many important enzyme systems. Other uses include treatment of prostate enlargement, common colds, macular degeneration, loss of taste sensation, and acne)
There are many other supplements commonly seen in today’s newspapers and magazines and on television. It is far beyond the scope of this short summary to list them all. Many are unproven. Others may be dangerous. Still others are truly effective and are usually much safer than the usual medicines we take for the same problems. Use your common sense and seek medical advice in selecting what is right for you.
Remember, above all, that all of these supplements and vitamins are just part of an overall healthy lifestyle and should not be substituted for eating correctly, avoiding self destructive habits and proper exercise.