If your practice is anything like mine you probably get a lot of questions about supplements and dietary supplementation. While there have always been widely dispersed opinions from various medical and nutritional communities, it is clear that there are areas of consensus forming in support of some forms of nutrient supplementation. I have collected a series of articles form various publications that collectively summarize many of the most current perspectives. It is my opinion that as health and fitness professionals we have a responsibility to remain current in our understanding of all the tools and technologies available to us in our efforts to help our clients.
Traditional Views Of Vitamins & Minerals
More and more scientists are starting to suspect that traditional medical views of vitamins and minerals have been too limited. While researchers may not endorse the expansive claims of hard-core vitamin enthusiasts, evidence suggests that the nutrients play a much more complex role in assuring vitality and optimal health than was previously thought. Vitamins-often in doses much higher than those usually recommended-may protect against a host of ills ranging from birth defects and cataracts to heart disease and cancer. Even more provocative are glimmerings that vitamins can stave off the normal ravages of aging.
Scientists have so far identified 13 organic substances that are commonly labeled vitamins. In the human body, they play a vital role in helping regulate the chemical reactions that protect cells and convert food into energy and living tissue. Some vitamins are produced within the body. Vitamin D, for example, is manufactured in the skin during exposure to sunlight, and three other vitamins (K, biotin and pantothenic acid) are made inside the human gut by resident bacteria.
But most vitamins must be ingested. Most of the excitement, however, is being generated by a group of vitamins-C, E and Beta Carotene, the chemical parent of vitamin A-that are known as antioxidants. These nutrients appear to be able to defuse the volatile toxic molecules, known as oxygen-free radicals, that are a byproduct of normal metabolism in cells. These molecules are also created in the body by exposure to sunlight, X-rays, ozone, tobacco smoke, car exhaust and other environmental pollutants.
Free radicals are cellular renegades; they wreak havoc by damaging DNA, altering biochemical compounds, corroding cell membranes and killing cells outright. Such molecular mayhem, scientists increasingly believe, plays a major role in the development of ailments like cancer, heart or lung disease and cataracts. Many researchers are convinced that the cumulative effects of free radicals also underlie the gradual deterioration that is the hallmark of aging in all individuals, healthy as well as sick. Antioxidants, studies suggest, might help stem the damage by neutralizing free radicals. In effect they perform as cellular sheriffs, collaring the radicals and hauling them away.
* Ratings as of article's date of publication
Vitamins For High Blood Pressure
According to the University of California, Irvine Medical Center, a study, which appears in the August issue of Hypertension, is believed to be the first to prove that increases in free radicals found in the diet and the atmosphere reduce levels of nitric oxide and can cause high blood pressure. The research suggests that multiple antioxidants in the diet, including vitamins E and C, may help prevent and treat certain types of high blood pressure.
Oxidative stress has been linked to heart disease, inflammation, Alzheimer's disease and a host of other disorders. It is caused by the production of free radicals, which damage DNA and alter the structure of key proteins.
"These findings tell us that oxidative stress produced by increased free radical levels induces hypertension by lowering the levels of nitric oxide in the body," said Vaziri. "Lowering these levels has resulted in hypertension, showing that nitric oxide is a key component to regulating blood pressure. While antioxidants could help bring back blood pressure levels close to normal, they could not fully restore blood pressure, indicating that these vitamins play a partial role in blood pressure regulation.
Supporters of this theory speculate that antioxidants may one day revolutionize health care. "If you can predict who is most susceptible to oxidative stress," notes Pryor, "you can treat them with antioxidants more effectively." Ultimately, says biochemist Bruce Ames at the University of California, Berkeley, "we're going to be able to get people to live a lot longer than anyone thinks."
Virtually all experts agree that a daily multivitamin won't hurt anybody. Opinion is divided, however, about whether people should be taking high doses of vitamins to prevent chronic disease or delay aging. Some argue that enough evidence is in to justify taking moderately high amounts of antioxidants. Several researchers admit they are already doing so.
As we endeavor to effectively support the various needs of our clients it is important that we remain current technologically. Our profession is about the application of science developed by a broad spectrum of experts. There are over 30,000 published studies that support the need for adults to supplement with a broad spectrum multivitamin/mineral and antioxidants. We have found that the research we have done in this area has allowed us to significantly improve the over-all value proposition of our nutritional services.
Our clients receive better information and therefore realize more benefit and value from our relationship. This translates to improved client retention and increased total revenue per client. We have found that our clients are ready to communicate what they want from us as professionals. And, we have found that, when we have been willing to do the hard work necessary to deliver trust-worthy, accurate, and effective services that service these needs, our clients increasingly value the relationships we develop.