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Supper is NOT Enough:
Why We Need Food Supplements
by Eva Urbaniak, N.D.
Vitamins are essential to human life. Some are needed in small amounts, some even in micro amounts, others in larger amounts dependent on each individual's needs, but the facts are that without them we become sick or die.
The word vitamin was first coined by a Polish biochemist named Casimir Funk. While working in London in 1912, he determined that the anti-beriberi factor in rice hulls belonged to a class of chemical compounds called "amines." He therefore named this factor "vitamine," which means "amine essential to life." Later the "e" was dropped and the substances came to be known as vitamins.

Of course, we get many of our vitamins from the foods we eat, some are ingested or acquired in their precursor form, like beta-carotene to vitamin A, or sunshine to vitamin D. But living and coping with our twentieth century environment has put new demands on our physiology and there are many solid reasons to take vitamins as a safe method of optimizing dietary sources of nutrients. Some people take vitamins without even knowing why; for example, a wife gives them to her husband with his meals. And regardless of the fact that there are still many M.D.s out there who maintain that vitamins, minerals and herbs are totally worthless, more and more informed consumers and naturopathic physicians who are trained extensively in therapeutic nutrition know differently.

The history of vitamin supplementation is fairly recent, corresponding directly to our grand entrance into the industrial age, shifting away from individual organic farming to mass agricultural production and consumption on a mass scale. Refinement of flour, sugar and salt alone, has had a tremendously negative impact on American health. In the "old days," meaning around the turn of the 20th century, people still used molasses and honey to sweeten foods, they grew, ground and baked with their own grains, and raised and slaughtered their own livestock. Today, we have processed food, fast food, junk food, and a new food category called non-food. Recent statistics show that the typical standard American diet (SAD) consists of 40% white sugar and 35% saturated fat. Thus, we are considered the most overfed yet undernourished country in the world! It is SAD indeed.

In 1990, the U.S. government dietary guidelines included 3 to 5 servings daily of vegetables, 2 to 4 servings of fruit, 6 to 11 servings of grains, (bread, pasta, rice, etc.) and 2 to 3 servings of protein (meat, fish, eggs, poultry, or dried beans). A recent survey involving 21,500 people followed for three days showed NOT ONE consumed 100% of the RDA for the 10 nutrients surveyed.

About the RDA
RDAs or recommended daily allowances were established about 50 years ago "to provide for individual variations among most normal people as they live in the USA under usual environmental stresses." In other words, the RDA is a guideline by which to gauge amounts of nutrients necessary for sustaining life without deficiency symptoms or deficiency disease, meaning the minimum. Interesting to note that establishment of the RDA transpired as a result of an increase of the deficiency diseases pellagra and beriberi after flour had been being refined for a relatively short time. It doesn't take long to become sick if the food that one eats is totally lacking in any nutritional value other than calories. So it became necessary to vitamin "enrich" the refined flour devoid of any nutritive value. Unfortunately, flour producers never figured out a way to replace the Vitamin E lost through the refinement process, the Vitamin E that is contained in the wheat germ, and there is a direct correlation with the loss of this precious nutrient and the astronomical increase in heart disease in the US. RDAs were designed to prevent deficiency disease; 60 milligrams of Vitamin C to prevent scurvy, 1 to 1.5 mg. of Thiamine to prevent beriberi, 13 to 19 mg. of Niacin to prevent pellagra. RDAs do not consider nutrient amounts needed for giving optimal nutrition, nor the action of certain vitamins to prolong life by preventing chronic degenerative diseases. Several years ago, a new phrase was coined regarding vitamin supplementation called the SONA, or Suggested Optimal Nutrient Allowance. In spite of the substantiating evidence through research that the RDAs are inadequate and in need of revision, that there is a need to take supplements ABOVE the RDAs to protect against and even treat disease, the concept of a SONA has apparently been shelved for the time being. There are still no RDAs for many nutrients because of "insufficient data." The nutrients are identified by an asterisk on the bottle of supplements stating, "no RDA has been established."

Some reasons to supplement with vitamins are; food processing, sugar and fat consumption, consumption of alcohol, smoking, taking medications, dieting/calorie counting, varying individual needs, stress, food allergies, and poor digestion, and many more. Vitamins are classified into two categories; fat soluble, including Vitamins A,D, E, F,and K; and water soluble, containing all the B Complex vitamins, and Vitamin C. Fat soluble vitamins are stored in the liver and fatty tissues and water soluble vitamins are excreted in the urine. Dosage is difficult to determine because of biochemical individuality, health status of an individual, diet, physical activity, and digestive capacity, which means the ability to absorb nutrients. Each person is different and unique, so each person needs to gauge how he feels before and after a certain supplement, giving a reasonable amount of time like several weeks to give the body a chance to respond. Specifically, some nutrients that would show a positive shift would be the B-vitamins, giving increased energy, improvement of dry skin conditions, stopping hair loss, and healing of cracks at the corners of the mouth. Skin texture can also be noticeably improved by taking Beta-carotene and vitamin E. Beta carotene has been shown to interfere with absorption of Vitamin E so it is wise to take them separately. There are many tricks to getting the most out of your supplements, however they are too numerous to mention here.

But a few more are:
Vitamin C enhances the absorption of Iron; inorganic, or ferric Iron oxidizes Vitamin E in the intestines causing its inactivation so it should be taken separately; Vitamin C is better absorbed in a natural citrus extract containing bioflavonoids, proteins and carbohydrates than as synthetic ascorbic acid alone, and Biotin deficiency can be caused by eating raw egg whites because they inhibit absorption in the intestinal tract. Also, read the labels on your supplement bottles. Some vitamins are grown on yeast. This could be a problem for yeast sensitive people. Some of the cheaper vitamins may have candy coatings, which contain artificial dyes, another common allergen. It is best to choose high quality natural vitamins, and in the case of sensitivity, look for labels that say hypoallergenic-contains no yeast, wheat, corn etc.
There is now substantial long-term research that confirms there are many conditions which can be treated, arrested, and even reversed by supplementation. Reduction of cataracts and heart disease can be achieved by taking the antioxidant vitamins, A, C, E, Beta-carotene and antioxidant minerals, selenium, zinc, copper and manganese. Neural tube defects and cleft palate can be prevented by adequate intake of folic acid. (Cigarette smoke, whether primary or secondary, robs the body of Folic acid and Vitamin C.) A deficiency of B-12 can manifest as memory loss, neurological or psychiatric disorders.

Pharmaceutical drugs and antibiotics can cause deficiencies of nutrients such as B-12, folate, Vitamins K, B-2, in fact, the whole B-complex. Cortisone depletes the body of Vitamin C, K, B-6, potassium and zinc. Aspirin causes deficiency of eight vitamins and minerals including A, B-1, B-12, and C, folic acid and calcium, iron and potassium. Side effects of some heart medications and cancer drugs have been shown to sap nutrients and actually cause more harm than good. A quote from a Newsweek article already several years old reads as follows: "There may be excellent reasons to take supplements. If today's hopes are realized mere vitamins and minerals may have the power to cut some birth defects in half, protect the elderly from bone loss and hip fractures, and dramatically reduce the incidence of heart disease and cancer."

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