by David Kekich
Just twenty years ago, vitamin popping was still held by the mainstream medical community as a worthless fad. But studies now show we are woefully vitamin deficient.
For example, two USDA surveys of 5,188 people and 16,103 people discovered that not one got 100% of the recommended daily allowances (RDA) for vitamins, minerals and nutrients. And RDAs are far below what many researchers determine to be optimal health levels.
Today, you would be hard-pressed to find a physician who would disagree with the tremendous potential health benefits supplements can provide. That’s because we finally have tens of thousands of published studies supporting the use of supplements. We also have ways to measure just what, if any, positive effects many supplements have on you. In fact, we now know you can fix defects in your DNA with vitamins and minerals.
According to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), there are many genetic differences that make people’s enzymes less efficient than normal, and that simple supplementation with vitamins can often restore some of these deficient enzymes to full working order.
Thanks to emerging technologies, we will soon be able to tell precisely what supplements and what dosages are optimal for you. For now, we need to take a more general approach.
According to Dr. Bruce Ames of the University of California at Berkeley, over fifty genetic diseases have already been identified that can be corrected by aggressive nutritional supplementation. Diet alone and recommended daily allowances (RDA) will never do it for optimal health. In fact, optimal health is not possible without supplements for most of us.
Published studies showed that supplementing with antioxidants can cut the risk of heart disease by 26–46%, as well as cutting risks from certain forms of cancer.
Supplementation can also help you avoid stroke, diabetes, arthritis, macular degeneration, Alzheimer’s and much more. The bare basics include a daily high potency multivitamin tablet and essential fatty acids. Ninety-seven randomized trials involving over 275,000 subjects showed omega-3 fatty acids, like fish oil, reduced cardiac mortality risk by 32% and overall mortality by 23%.
Also, if you or someone you know has arthritis, lymphoma, herpes, HIV, low energy, Parkinson’s or frequent infections including colds and flu, these people may have a common link—nutritional deficiency. Researchers found that in almost any diseased condition, patients are glutathione deficient.
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
- Lipoic acid
Dr. Lester Packer of the University of California at Berkeley, one of the world’s most renowned experts on antioxidants, has found the first five to act as an antioxidant network in your body.
How Much Should You Take?
The daily requirements for each of these antioxidants as established by the USDA are far too low, according to the accounts of a large number of scientists and physicians. There is still a heated debate as to what the correct dosages should be, and they will vary from person to person. At present, the following guidelines are based on the general recommendations of Dr. Lester Packer.
Vitamin C, according to Dr. Packer, should be taken in doses of 250 mg, twice daily. According to the results from his work, any more is not going to do any harm if you have a well-supported antioxidant network. Above this amount though, much of it is just excreted in the urine without being used.
The USDA recommended daily allowance (RDA) for vitamin E is woefully low. Vitamin E is one of the frontline defense systems against free radicals. Dr. Packer and many other sources recommend a total of 500 mg of vitamin E per day, and higher dosages for people with cancer or heart disease. Dr. Packer recommends mixing natural tocopherols and tocotrienols, members of the vitamin E family.
CoQ10 is naturally found in nearly every cell, tissue and organ in your body. It is found in especially high concentrations at the source of most of your free radical production, the mitochondria, your cells’ “power plants.” It improves your cells’ ability to transport electrons in and out of the mitochondria. CoQ10 is especially attracted to high-energy organs such as your heart and brain. It directly recycles vitamin E and is one of the primary molecules in the energy production system of cells. As we age, the production of CoQ10 declines, and this may be a factor in heart disease as well as diminished cellular energy.
The antioxidant action of the reduced form of CoQ10 (ubiquinol) is now considered to be one of its most important functions in cellular systems. Ubiquinol is a potent antioxidant capable of regenerating other antioxidants and provides important protection against oxidative damage to fats, proteins and DNA. Recent studies also reveal function in gene expression involved in human cell signaling, metabolism and transport.
If you are in the older and/or are in a disease/stress category, you may want to start at 200 to 300 mg per day. Studies show the CoQ10 plasma levels plateau at about two to three weeks at this dose. A good maintenance dose after that is in the 50 to 100 mg per day range. Make sure you take ubiquinol, the reduced form or water-soluble ubiquinone. Other forms are easily oxidized and are therefore inefficient.
A low level of glutathione is one of the key indicators for premature death. Unfortunately, the body breaks down glutathione in the digestive tract, so supplementing with an unprotected version of glutathione won’t do you much good. Take glutathione—but only the “protected” form, 50-100 mg glutathione/day.
Another way to keep your glutathione levels up is to avoid nitrates found in processed lunch meats, smoking and alcohol.
The cell’s energy powerhouses (the mitochondria) require a complex series of chemicals to be present in order to maintain critical functions such as transporting nutrients through the cell membrane and purging the cell of toxic debris. Mitochondrial energy depletion can result in congestive heart failure, muscle weakness, fatigue and neurological disease.
Some methods to counteract: 150–300 mg a day of R-lipoic acid.
It is well-known that diabetics age prematurely, but even non-diabetics suffer from a devastating chemical reaction called glycation, where protein or fat molecules bind to glucose molecules in the body to form non-functioning structures. Glycation is most evident in senile dementia, stiffening of the arterial system, and degenerative diseases of the eye.
Some methods to counteract: Take 1000 mg a day of carnosine.
More on Antioxidants
In addition to the five key antioxidants found in your body, there are other compounds that can boost your antioxidant activity. One group of these molecules that has gotten a lot of attention as of late are flavonoids. These antioxidants are found in tea, berries, red wine and many fruits.
Flavonoids and Carotenoids
From recent studies, flavonoids seem to act as free radical scavengers, mainly recycling vitamin C. Two of the most powerful flavonoid antioxidant extracts are those from pycnogenol (pine bark) and ginkgo biloba. Dr. Lester Packer’s recommendation for ginkgo biloba is 30 mg daily and for pycnogenol, 20 mg daily.
Another group of antioxidants available from plant, algae, and fungi are the carotenoids. The best source of carotenoids is your diet. Brightly colored fruits and vegetables all contain high levels of these compounds. However, the fruits and vegetables we eat today may only contain a fraction of the nutrients they contained fifty years ago. Many soils have been depleted of minerals, and in their attempt to sell food that looks and tastes good and keeps from spoiling too early, the industry has adulterated much of our produce. We recommend you eat as much locally grown or organically grown food as possible for those reasons, and because organic foods generally contain far fewer toxins. And oh yes, I believe organic food tastes better too.
Additionally, recent studies show vitamin D does far more than promote healthy teeth and bones. Its role in supporting immunity, modulating inflammation, and preventing cancer make the consequences of vitamin D deficiency potentially devastating.
University of California recently conducted an extensive review of scientific papers published worldwide between 1966 and 2004. Their analysis suggested that taking 1000 international units (IU) of vitamin D3 daily lowers an individual’s risk of developing colorectal cancer by 50%.
In fact, people with the lowest blood levels of vitamin D were about two times more likely to die from any cause during an eight-year study period than those with the highest levels.
Another study shows getting about 2,000 IU to 4,000 IU a day of vitamin D can help you to reduce your cancer risk by up to 50%! And according to Dr. William Grant, internationally recognized research scientist and vitamin D expert, about 30% of cancer deaths, which amounts to 2 million worldwide and 200,000 in the United States, could be prevented each year with higher levels of vitamin D.
According to Dr. Cees Vermeer, one of the world’s top researchers in the field of vitamin K, nearly everyone is deficient in vitamin K—just like most are deficient in D.
Most people get enough K from their diets to maintain adequate blood clotting, but NOT enough to offer protection against some health problems.
Vitamin K comes in two forms, and it is important to understand the differences between them before devising your nutritional plan of attack.
1. Vitamin K1: Found in green vegetables, K1 goes directly to your liver and helps you maintain a healthy blood clotting system. It is also K1 that keeps your own blood vessels from calcifying, and helps your bones retain calcium and develop the right crystalline structure.
2. Vitamin K2: Bacteria produce this type of vitamin K. It is present in high quantities in your gut, but unfortunately is not absorbed from there and passes out in your stool. K2 goes straight to vessel walls, bones, and tissues other than your liver.
You can obtain all the K2 you’ll need by eating 10-15 grams of natto daily, which is half an ounce. The next best thing is a vitamin K2 supplement. Remember to take your K supplement with fat, since it is fat-soluble and won’t be absorbed without it.
Although the exact dosing is yet to be determined, Dr. Vermeer recommends between 45 mcg and 185 mcg daily of Vitamin K for adults.
Round out Your Program
There are two more compounds worth mentioning in this discussion: selenium and melatonin.
Selenium is an element that has a synergistic effect on the antioxidant network. The way it works is not completely clear yet, but it is well-known that selenium deficiencies are responsible for higher levels of heart disease and cancer. In fact, people who live in areas in which the soil is selenium deficient are much more likely to die of heart disease.
Dr. Lester Packer recommends taking 200 mcg (micrograms) per day.
Melatonin is technically a hormone, but one of its most powerful uses is as a general antioxidant.
This molecule has the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier, the membrane that prevents most molecules from entering the brain itself. So this might be one of the brain’s key defenses against oxidation.
In addition to these effects, melatonin has a role in regulating the sleep cycles of some animals, and may have similar effects in humans. Melatonin production declines with age in humans, and so it has been suggested that increased dosages may be necessary as you age.
The most commonly recommended dosage is 3 mg or less at night before bed, but this is an unusually benign substance. The only noticeable side-effect was it is hard to wake up in the morning. Of course this is extreme, and we don’t recommend extreme dosages of anything.
Conventional wisdom also leads to “normal” health. For optimal health, we suggest supplements.
What are your “miracles in a bottle?”
David Kekich (Living Healthy to 120: Anti-Aging Breakthroughs) is President/CEO of Maximum Life Foundation that focuses on aging research, a 501(c)(3) corporation dedicated to curing aging-related diseases. For more information, visit: MaxLife.org. David contributes to our column Living Healthy to 120: Anti-Aging Breakthroughs. MaxLife is helping to make the anti-aging dream a reality with cutting edge Bio-Engineering research and products.