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MULTI-VITAMINS, MINERALS & YOU

Increased Immunity

The addition of a multi- vitamin and mineral supplement to your daily diet may help build immunity and infection resistance.

In a year- long study at the Memorial University of Newfoundland, researcher Dr. Ranjit Chandra gave healthy people over 65 either a daily placebo or a multi- vitamin and mineral supplement. The results showed those taking the supplement had half as many illness days (23 vs. 48) and significantly fewer days on antibiotics (18 vs. 32) as those who took the placebo. The study concluded that a modest amount of vitamins and minerals taken daily improves immunity and decreases the risk of infection in old age.

In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (1994), Dr. John Bogden and his colleagues reported that when they gave a multi- vitamin and mineral supplement or placebo to 56, 59- to 85- year- olds for one year, those who took the daily multi scored better on skin tests measuring their immune systems' reactions to infectious agents like strep, tuberculin, diptheria, and tetanus. They also did not experience the declines in blood levels of vitamins A and B6, folic acid, and beta-carotene that occurred in some of the placebo takers.

The study demonstrated daily supplementation with low to moderate doses of vitamins and minerals can prevent low blood levels of some nutrients and can enhance immunity in healthy, older adults.

Daily Use

Most experts agree that your body can make use of the nutrients in supplements no matter what time of day you take them. It is recommended to take vitamin and mineral supplements with your meals for better digestibility and an improved rate at which your intestines absorb the nutrients. Take your supplements at the same time each day (always with breakfast or dinner, etc.). This will help you establish a daily healthy lifestyle habit that can help you achieve optimal nutrition.

Taking a well-balanced, comprehensive multi- vitamin and mineral supplement can significantly improve your nutritional status and serve as "nutritional insurance," boosting your nutrient intake from adequate to optimal levels.

However, a healthy diet is the foundation of good nutrition. You should not eat a poor diet and rely on supplements to make up for your "dietary sins." A supplement, as its name implies, should be used as an addition to a healthy nutrient- dense plant- based diet. John Westerdahl, MPH, RD, CNS, is a nutritionist, registered dietitian, and the Nutrition Editor for Veggie Life.

Choosing a Multi- Vitamin and Multi- Mineral Supplement

Choose a well- balanced scientifically advanced multi- vitamin and multi- mineral supplement formula that offers a comprehensive spectrum of vitamins and minerals that include the following: Fat- soluble vitamins: A, D, E, and K. Water- soluble vitamins: B1, B2, B6, B12, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, folic acid, and vitamin C. Minerals: calcium, iron (supplemental iron is generally needed only for children, teenagers and women of childbearing age- See Iron, phosphorus, iodine, magnesium, zinc, copper, selenium, manganese, chromium, molybdenum, nickel, tin, vanadium, boron, and silicon.

100% Daily Value- Choose a supplement that provides a balanced 100% of the Daily Value (DV has replaced the old U.S. RDA- recommended daily allowance) for all vitamins and minerals listed (with the exception of calcium, magnesium and phosphorus because it is difficult to fit a full 100% of the DV for these in one tablet and keep it a swallowable size). It should include a full 100% of the DV for the essential B- vitamin, biotin, which some companies skimp on because of its expense. In response to recent studies regarding the benefits of taking additional antioxidant nutrients, scientifically advanced formulas contain at least 200% of the Daily Value for vitamins C and E.

Multi- Dose- Look for multi- dose multiples. Two- a- day tablets may seem inconvenient, but taking a multi at different times of the day may help absorption. Multi- dose tablets also provide the flexibility of adjusting the dose to meet your individual nutritional needs.

Clinically Tested and Proven Bioavailability- Make sure the multi has been clinically tested and has proven bioavailability (proof that the body really absorbs the nutrients). A statement concerning clinical testing, proven bioavailability and potency may appear on the product label or in its accompanying literature. Avoid supplements that contain artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.

Calcium and Magnesium- Multi- vitamin and mineral supplements often do not provide adequate amounts of calcium and magnesium because these minerals take up a large amount of space in a multi tablet. Therefore, it may be necessary to take an additional calcium- magnesium supplement to meet the body's needs for these essential bone- building minerals. While most multis provide small amounts of calcium and magnesium, the more comprehensive formulas may provide as much as 45- 50 percent of the Daily Value of these minerals.

Iron - Look for multi- vitamin and mineral supplements that give you a with- or- without iron option. Formulas based on current scientific research now offer this option to safely provide supplemental iron for those who need it and leave it out for those who don't. Since iron- deficiency anemia is the number one nutrient deficiency disease in the U.S. among children, teenagers and women of childbearing age, supplements containing 100% of the DV for iron often are recommended for these people. Healthy men and post- menopausal women have a lower requirement for iron and usually can get all the iron they need from their diets. Recent research indicates that excess iron in the body may potentially increase the chances of heart attack in men. This has brought about a new concern about the safety of men taking additional iron in the form of a supplement. Many experts now recommend both healthy men and post- menopausal women take a multi- supplement without iron. Written by: John Westerdahl


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