Nutritional supplements—Who needs them?

Benefits of supplements

When I was young and strong, I didn’t believe in nutritional supplements and thought I didn’t need them. However, as I age and I hear the health complaints of other older individuals I think that they have benefits.

Vitamins generally serve as cofactors in biochemical reactions throughout the human body and minerals serve as building blocks for many tissues. They are vital in daily doses to ensure optimal nutrition and health. Vitamin. Vitamins and minerals usually have specific and unrelated functions throughout the human body.

Vitamin A is involved in eyesight, the skin and the immune system. Vitamin B is involved in many reactions that generate energy, ensure proper organ function like the nervous system and aid in detoxification in the liver and kidneys. Vitamin C is the premier water-soluble antioxidant that prevents oxidative damage to the watery parts of the human body. It is also involved in the proper development of connective tissue and the immune system. Vitamin D is involved in calcium and bone metabolism and has been recently discovered to play an important role in hormones and the immune system. Vitamin E is the premier fat-soluble antioxidant the prevents oxidative damage to fatty membranes. Vitamin K is involved in blood clotting and bone metabolism.

Calcium is involved in bone structure, blood clotting and muscles. Sodium is the major electrolyte involved in muscle and nerve function. Potassium is also involved in muscle and nerve function. Magnesium is involved in muscle and nerve function and as a cofactor for many biochemical reactions. Iron is involved in oxygen transfer in red blood cells and as a cofactor in other enzyme reactions. Zinc is involved in the immune system, wound healing and cellular metabolism. Other minerals with important functions include boron, cobalt, chromium, copper, iodine, manganese, phosphorus, strontium, sulfur and other trace minerals required in small amounts.

According to the National Institute of Health, the RDA, or recommended dietary daily allowances, are the levels of intake of essential nutrients that, based on scientific knowledge, are judged by the Food and Nutrition Board to be adequate to meet the known nutrient needs of practically all healthy persons. They are levels of vitamins and minerals that are meant to meet the requirements of the human body for proper development and functioning.

Healthy diets are meant to supply all our nutritional needs and meet the RDA requirements. A healthy diet includes an ample number of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, beans and proteins like meat or vegetable protein sources.

It also probably means less consumption of processed and refined foods like candy, soft drinks and other junk food. Obviously, these foods are lower in nutritional quality and lower in vitamin and mineral content.

Some would also argue that many healthier foods have less nutritional value than they did a generation ago because of farming practices and devitalized soil growing the food. Despite this, I would still argue that it is still better to eat these heathier foods than not. And the same could be true for organic foods. It is still better to eat ample amounts of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, beans, nuts and seeds and protein than not. It is still significantly healthier than eating poor quality junk foods.

In a perfect world, you would get all your nutrients including vitamins and minerals from the food you eat.

For instance, there may be days when you eat healthily and get all your vitamin B12, calcium and iron from your food. Then there are days when you don’t. A vitamin and mineral supplement could be considered an insurance policy to supply the body’s needs that are not met by daily food intake.

Of course, there are tests to evaluate vitamin and minerals status in the body. Lab tests can help determine some of the major levels of these nutrients accurately while others not. Iron and vitamin B12 levels can be determined by blood tests.

Electrolyte levels such sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium can also be determined by blood tests. A baseline, vitamin D level could be useful. Other vitamins and minerals are not as easily or accurately tested in the blood.

Many of these tests are not covered by B.C.’s medical services plan. As a nutritionally oriented practitioner, I try to evaluate nutrient status in a fair and cost-effective manner for patients. In many cases, instead of doing expensive testing it is far easier to recommend a few nutritional supplements for patients that in my experience, can be beneficial for optimal health.

Now that I am older, and see how the body ages, I think a few nutritional supplements to help meet dietary needs, ensure optimal functioning and prevent the oxidative deterioration of aging can be beneficial.

The information provided in this article does not, and is not intended to, constitute medical advice. All information and content are for general information purposes only.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Doug Lobay is a practicing naturopathic physician in Kelowna, British Columbia.

He graduated with a bachelor of science degree from the University of British Columbia in 1987 and then attended Bastyr College of Natural Health Sciences in Seattle, Washington, where graduated with a doctorate in naturopathic medicine degree in 1991. While attending Bastyr College, he began to research the scientific basis of naturopathic medicine. 

He was surprised to find many of the current major medical journals abounded with scientific information on the use of diet, vitamins, nutritional supplements and herbal medicines.

Doug is a member of the College of Naturopathic Physicians of British Columbia and has practiced as naturopathic family physician for more than 30 years.  He maintains a busy practice in Kelowna where he sees a wide age range of patients with various ailments.

He focuses on dietary modification, allergy testing, nutritional assessments, supplement recommendation for optimal health, various physical therapy modalities, various intravenous therapies including chelation therapy.

An avid writer, he has written seven books on various aspects of naturopathic medicine that are available on Amazon and was also a long-time medical contributor to the Townsend Letter journal for doctors and patients, where many of his articles are available to view on-line. He has also given numerous lectures, talks and has taught various courses on natural medicine.

Doug enjoys research, writing and teaching others about the virtues of natural health and good nutrition. When not working, he enjoys cycling, hiking, hockey, skiing, swimming, tennis and playing guitar.

If you have any further questions or comments, you can contact Dr. Lobay at 250-860-7622 or [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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