Nutritional Supplements Database

Guidelines for Using Supplements
  For best results, eat healthy
  Read the label
  Know when and how
  Beware of megadosing
  Pay attention to reactions
  Consult with your physician
  Be consistent
     
     

 

Vitamin Facts
  Fat Soluble Vitamins
    Vitamin A
    Vitamin D
    Vitamin E
    Vitamin K
    Cartenoids
  Water Soluble Vitamins
    Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)
    Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
    Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
    Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)
    Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
    Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid)
    Vitamin B 12 (Cobalamin)
    Biotin
    Choline
    Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid)
    Bioflavanoids

 

Mineral Facts
    Calcium
    Chloride
    Magnesium
    Phosphorus
    Potassium
    Sodium
    Chromium
    Cobalt
    Copper
    Iodine
    Iron
    Manganese
    Molybdenum
    Selenium
    Sulphur
    Zinc
     

 

Guidelines for Using Nutritional Supplements

While the therapeutic use of diet and nutritional supplements is generally safe, and in many cases can be adapted as part of an overall self-care regimen, for best results it is advisable to seek the professional assistance of a holistic physician or nutritional therapist to ensure that your nutrient needs are optimally met. The following guidelines can also assist you in receiving the fullest benefits from a dietary and nutritional program. back to top

For best results, eat healthily. No amount of nutritional supplementation can take the place of a diet of nutrient- dense foods or (ideally) organic whole foods. Also take care not to overcook your foods, since high temperature can destroy even the healthiest foods' nutrient content.

Read the label. Since not all brands of nutritional supplements are the same in terms of quality, efficacy and price, it is important to know the quality of the brand you are buying. By reading the label of the supplements you purchase, you can determine their dosage range and whether or not the supplements also contain fillers, binders, and other additives of no nutritional value, and to which you might be allergic or sensitive, such as sugars or gluten. (Generally safe additives include alginic acid, cellulose, calcium or magnesium stearate, dicalcium phosphate, gum accacia, and silica.) Labels usually also contain instructions for how nutrients should best be consumed to optimize their effectiveness. Reputable companies typically list all ingredients in their nutritional formulas and, upon request, are usually willing to also provide further information regarding their efficacy. back to top

Know when and how to take your supplements. As a general rule, vitamin and mineral supplements are best taken during meals or 15 minutes before or after eating, in order to enhance their assimilation. This is especially true of fat- soluble vitamins, which ideally should also be taken during the meal of the day with the highest fat content. Overall, however, most vitamin and mineral supplements are best taken with the first meal of the day. back to top

Amino acid supplements, on the other hand, are best taken at least an hour before or after meals. To promote their absorption, take them with fruit juice. In addition, single amino acids should be supplemented with a complete amino acid formula for best results. Similarly, single B vitamins should only be consumed along with a total B-complex supplement, while minerals are best taken as part of a complete multivitamin/mineral formula.

When using high dosages of vitamin C and B-complex vitamins, take them in divided doses throughout the day, rather than all at one time.

Beware of "megadosing." Certain nutrients, including all fat-soluble vitamins and certain minerals and B-complex vitamins, can be toxic in high doses. To avoid the risk of toxicity, avoid taking high doses of nutrients unless you do so under the guidance of physician trained in their use. back to top

Pay attention to any reactions following supplementation. If you experience nausea or other side effects after taking supplements, immediately discontinue their use. In many cases, such reactions are due to excessive dosages or symptoms of detoxification provoked by supplementation and will cease once supplementation is discontinued. But if symptoms persist, seek medical attention.

Consult with your physician before mixing supplements with medication. While most supplements taken in moderate doses are generally safe, certain nutrients can be contraindicated when used with prescribed medications. Iron tablets, for instance, should not be taken when using antibiotics. To ensure safety, always consult with a nutritionally-oriented physician prior to beginning any supplementation program.

Be consistent. Irregular use of nutritional supplements provides little or no benefit, since the benefits of diet and proper nutrition are cumulative and accrue over time. By following a daily supplement routine, you can ensure that your body regularly receives the nutritional support it requires to properly perform its many functions. back to top

Vitamin Facts

Vitamins play a vital role in human nutrition, and for the most part cannot be manufactured by the body. Although many people take vitamins in the hopes of improving their energy levels, of themselves vitamins are not energy sources. Instead, vitamins act as essential for properly regulating the body's metabolic reactions and biochemical processes. When vitamins are deficient in the diet, these various biological functions are impeded, resulting in suboptimal health and a variety of disease conditions specifically related to nutrient imbalances. There are two classifications of vitamins, those that are fat-soluble and those that are water-soluble. back to top

Fat Soluble Vitamins

Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in body tissues and can therefore be drawn upon when they are not obtained daily from the diet. Because they are not easily excreted, however, excessive intake of fat-soluble vitamins can cause toxicity. The most common fat-soluble vitamins are vitamins A, D, E, and K and carotenoids. back to top

Vitamin A

Vitamin A was the first vitamin to be discovered and officially named, hence its letter A. Vitamin A is not a single substance, but a group of nutrients that include retinol, retinal, and the carotenoids. Retinol and retinal are both known as preformed vitamin A and are found in a variety of animal foods, especially liver. Butter, cream, egg yolk, fish oils, and whole and fortified nonfat milk are all good sources of preformed vitamin A. Orange fruits and green, leafy, and yellow vegetables are all rich sources of various precursor carotenoids, particularly beta-carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A.

Vitamin A is important for a variety of body functions, including eyesight, healthy teeth and skin, bone growth, cell differentiation, and tissue repair. Vitamin A also plays an important role in maintaining proper function of the cornea, lungs, mucus membranes, the lining of the gastrointestinal tract, and the bladder and urinary tract. It also acts as an antioxidant, helps prevent infectious disease, and is needed for the production of various anti-tumor compounds in the body.

Vitamin A stores are diminished by both stress and illness, as well as alcohol consumption, which also interferes with its absorption. When of the first signs of vitamin A deficiency is night blindness. Other signs of deficiency include supoptimum bone and tooth formation, eye inflammation, impaired immune response, weight loss, and keratinosis, a condition resulting in hardened pigmented deposits around hair follicles and the body's upper and lower extremities. back to top

Vitamin D

Vitamin D occurs in ten forms, D1- D10. The two most important forms are D2 and D3. The best food sources of vitamin D are cod liver and fish liver oils, butter, egg yolk, liver, vitamin D-fortified milk, and oily fish such as herring, mackerel, sardines, and salmon. The body can also manufacture vitamin D in the skin when it comes in contact with the sun's ultraviolet rays. People who live in areas of smog or infrequent sunlight, as well as strict vegetarians, should consider daily supplementing with 400 IUs of vitamin D.

Vitamin D is essential for the absorption of calcium, and for regulating the metabolism of calcium and phosphorous, both of which are integral components of healthy bones and teeth. It also aids in regulating the nervous system and maintaining cardiovascular health and normal blood clotting, and is an important nutrient for childhood growth. Because of its ability to aid in the calcification process, vitamin D can also be useful for maintaining bone health during menopause.

In childhood, the primary sign of vitamin D deficiency is rickets, while in adults, lack of the vitamin can result in softening of the bones (osteomalacia). Tetany, a form of muscle spasm, hearing loss, nearsightedness, psoriasi, celicac disease, and osteoporosis can also result from vitamin D deficiency. back to top

Vitamin E

Vitamin E refers to a group of substances known as tocopherols. The most active form of vitamin E is d-alpha tocopherol, which is also the form that is most prevelant in nature. The primary food sources of vitamin E are seed and vegetable oils, especially saffower oil. Other food sources include wheat germ, wheat germ oil, nuts, green leafy vegetables, whole grains, butter, and egg yolk.

Vitamin E acts as potent antioxidant, and works synergistically with other antioxidants like vitamin C and selenium to minimize the effects of free radical damage and as an anti-tumor agent. It also enhances the health properties of vitamin A, with the two vitamins working together to reduce cholesterol and fat accumulation. Currently, vitamin E is also being investigated for its potential anti-aging properties, and has been shown to reduce the risk of atherosclerosis. In addition, it is an important nutrient for the nervous, reproductive, and skeletal systems, as well as for muscle tissue and red blood cells and corpuscles. Applied topically, it is useful for treating burns, wounds, abrasions, lesions, and dry skin.

Even though vitamin E is more easily excreted from the body than other fat-soluble vitamins, signs of deficiency are less obvious than other nutrient deficiencies, and therefore more difficult to detect. Adding to this difficulty is the fact that vitamin E deficiency can manifest in a variety of ways. One possible indication of deficiency is decreased red blood cell levels due to damaged cell membranes. back to top

Vitamin K

Vitamin K also occurs in various forms: K1 (phylloquinone) and K2 (menaquinone), both of which occur naturally, and K3 (menadione) a synthetic version that is twice as active biologically, and is only administered to people who have difficulty utilizing the natural forms due to conditions such as reduced bile secretion.. In addition to being available dietarily, approximately half of the body's vitamin K needs are met by the biosynthesis of various bacteria in the intestines. Food sources of vitamin K include dark green leafy vegetables, kelp, alfalfa, egg yolk, yogurt, fish liver oils, and legumes, as well as safflower oil and blackstrap molasses.

Vitamin K's primary function in the body is to assist in normal blood clotting, especially in the synthesis of various proteins involved in the coagulation process. Since the body is able to manufacture its own supply of vitamin K, deficiencies are rare, although they can be compounded by impaired intestinal absorption, overuse of antibiotics (which destroy healthy intestinal bacteria), and poor liver function or liver disease. Symptoms of deficiency include abnormal bleeding or hemorrhaging, and miscarriage due to abnormal blood loss. back to top

Carotenoids

Carotenoids refer to over 500 substances which naturally occur in fruits and vegetables. Some 50 carotenoids act as precursors to vitamin A, with beta-carotene being the most well-known and most prevalent. Lycopene is another popular carotenoid due to its various healing properties. The best food sources of carotenoids are yellow and dark green vegetables, orange fruits, tomatoes, watermelons, and cherries.

Carotenoids primarily act as antioxidants in the body, and are also capable of minimizing the formation of abnormal and precancerous cells and preventing age-related vision problems. Some researchers also speculate that carotenoids can improve immune function by stimulating immune antibodies, lymphocytes, and natural killer and T-helper cells. Symptoms of carotenoid deficiency include diminished immune function, free radical damage, and increased susceptibility to various cancers and cardiovascular illness. back to top

Water Soluble Vitamins

Vitamins which are water-soluble include all B-complex vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, folic acid, cobalamin, biotin, and choline), vitamin C, and bioflavonoids (vitamin P). In contrast to fat -soluble vitamins, water-soluble vitamins are more easily destroyed by cooking and storage, and are more readily excreted by the body and therefore require daily replenishment through the diet. With the exception of vitamin B6, this also makes them less toxic in high doses. back to top

Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)

Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) plays a key role in the health of the heart, nervous system, muscle tissue, and blood cells, and is essential for metabolizing glucose in the cells to produce energy. Thiamine also aids in converting carbohydrates into fats that the body uses as energy reserves. Research suggests that thiamine is also potentially useful for mental function, and for minimizing nutritional imbalances caused by too much alcohol consumption. Like all B vitamins, thiamine works best when taken as part of a complete B-complex supplement.

Thiamine is found in all plant and animal foods, but is especially available in pork, organ meats, seafood, eggs, milk, pulses (seaweed),and wheat germ, barley, brown rice, and other whole grains. Despite this fact, cases of thiamine deficiency are quite common, due to exposure to stress, cigarettes, and regular alcohol consumption. Long- term thiamine deficiency can cause beriberi. Early signs of deficiency include fatigue, muscle weakness, constipation and other gastrointestinal disorders, confusion, depression, and memory loss. back to top

Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)

Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) also plays an important role in the body's production of energy, acts as an antioxidant, and promotes cell growth. It also works synergistically with various enzymes to help the body metabolize proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Healthy skin, hair, and nails all depend on adequate amounts of riboflavin, as does good vision.

One of the best food sources of riboflavin is Brewer's yeast. Organ meats, milks, eggs, cheese, green leafy vegetables, millet, wild rice, legumes, and oily fish such as mackerel and trout, are other good sources. Riboflavin is also produced by intestinal bacteria. Sunlight destroys riboflavin, as does stress and alcohol consumption, and some health experts say riboflavin deficiencies are more common than deficiencies for any other nutrient, especially among the elderly, people with poor eating habits, and alcoholics. Deficiency symptoms include mouth and tongue sores, eye fatigue and redness, sensitivity to light, hair loss, digestive problems, dermatitis, and general fatigue. back to top

Vitamin B3 (Niacin)

Vitamin B3 (Niacin) occurs in two forms, niacinamide and nicotinic acid, and is important for the overall health of the nervous system and the brain. Niacin also plays a vital role in the synthesis of sex hormones, enhances circulation, assists in energy production, and aids the body in flushing out toxins. Niacin can also be useful in reducing cholesterol and other body fats, and as a protective agent for the heart.

The body manufactures niacin when it has an adequate supply of the amino acid tryptophan, along with enough iron and vitamins B1, B2, B6, and C to assist in the conversion process. The richest food sources of niacin are organ meats, fish, poultry, peanuts, legumes, eggs, milk, and cheese. Long-term niacin deficiency can result in pellagra, which affects every cell in the body and can lead to symptoms of dementia, diarrhea, and dermatitis. Other signs of deficiency include skin sensitivity to light, gastrointestinal disorders, fatigue, headache, insomnia, irritability, memory loss, and emotional problems. back to top

Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)

Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid) is sometimes known as the "anti-stress vitamin" due to its ability to assist the adrenal cortex in producing cortisone and other hormones in response to stress. It also helps brain and neuromuscular function by converting the amino acid choline into the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, contributes to the overall health of the nervous system, and improves energy. Normal growth functions of the body are also supported by pantothenic acid, and some research indicates that it is a protective nutrient for the heart, and useful for reducing cholesterol.

Pantothenic acid is widely available in most foods, with Brewer's yeast, organ meats, eggs, brown rice, wholegrain cereals, cheese, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, and molasses all being good food sources. The body also converts intestinal flora to pantothenic acid. With the excdeption of people who susbsist on an entirely refined "junk foods" diet, deficiency of pantothenic acid is extremely unlikely. back to top

Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)

Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) plays many roles in the body, and is essential for the proper absorption of vitamin B12, protein synthesis, and over 60 enzymatic functions. It is also vital for the production of white blood cells and immune system antibodies. In addition, it helps regulate the body's sodium-potassium balance, which in turn helps regulate the body fluid balance and nerve, heart, and musculoskeletal function. The release of glycogen from the liver in muscles is also enhanced by adequate pyridoxine supply, making for greater levels of energy. Pyridoxine is an important nutrient for women, as well, especially during pregnancy, pre-menstruation, and menopause.

Although pyridoxine is common in many foods sources, few foods contain it in high amounts. It is also easily destroyed during cooking and improper storage. Wheat germ, meat, fish, poultry, eggs, wholegrain cereals, soybeans, potatoes, cauliflower, cabbage, and bananas are some of the best foods sources of pyridoxine.

Since pyridoxine plays an essential role in numerous body functions, lack of this vitamin can result in a wide variety of deficiency symptoms, beginning with impaired amino acid metabolism and decreases in neurotransmitters and hemoglobin production. Anemia, fatigue, nerve-related disorders, insomnia, skin problems, headache, concentration problems, nausea, and muscle cramps or spasms are other possible signs of pyridoxine deficiency. back to top

Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid)

Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid), also known as folacin or folate, aids in the production of red blood cells and helps metabolize protein by aiding in various amino acid conversions. It also plays a vital role in cell division, making it an important nutrient during times of growth, including pregnancy. Folic acid is also required by the body to properly utilize sugars, and is involved the production of neurotransmitters.

The richest foods sources of folic acid are dark green vegetables, such as spinach, asparagus, and kale. Other good sources are Brewer's yeast, wheat germ, nuts, eggs, and organ meats. Excessive heat and overcooking destroy folic acid, which is why it is important to consume adequate amounts of raw vegetables that contain it. Under conditions of good intestinal health, the body can also manufacture folic acid from intestinal bacteria.

Folic acid deficiency is quite common, due to such factors as poor diet, illness, malabsorption, stress, and alcohol and drug abuse. Deficiency symptoms include anemia, fatigue, diarrhea, gastrointestinal disorders, headache, irritability, palpitations, and overall weakness. back to top

Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)

Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin) is considered the most complex vitamin due to the fact that it is the only vitamin to also contain an essential minerals, particularly cobalt, which is necessary for the manufacture of cobalamin in the intestines. Cobalamin is required for the formation of protein from amino acids, and also aids in the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. It is also necessary for proper metabolism of nerve tissue and overall maintenance of the nervous system, and aids in the formation of red blood cells. Because of its ability to enhance the body's ability to utilize macronutrients and iron, as well as the role it plays in the synthesis of DNA and RNA, cobalamin can also improve energy levels.

Cobalamin is not found in significant amounts in plants, and can be depleted by stress, aging, exposure to light, and the excessive use of antacids and laxatives. The best animal food sources for cobalmin include beef, pork, organ meats, fish, eggs, milk, and yogurt. As a result, vegetarians who avoid dairy products are often deficient in cobalamin unless they receive it in supplement form.

Long-term lack of cobalamin can result in pernicious anemia. Other deficiency symptoms incude dizziness, fatigue, gastrointestinal disorders, hypotension (low blood pressure), memory problems, moodiness, numbness, and vision problems. back to top

Biotin

Biotin, sometimes referred to as vitamin H despite the fact that it is not a true vitamin per se, works as a co-factor with other B-complex vitamins to break down and metabolize fats, and to synthesize fatty acids. Biotin can also minimize symptoms of zinc deficiency.

The best food sources of biotin include liver, Brewer's yeast, nuts, milk, and egg yolk. Raw eggs eaten in large amounts can deplete biotin absorption, however, due to their avidin content. (Avidin is inactivated by cooking.) Excessive alcohol and use of antibiotics can also impair biotin absorption and destroy biotin stores.

Symptoms of biotin deficiency include appetite loss, depression, fatigue, hair loss (especially among teenagers), muscle pain, and skin problems. back to top

Choline

Choline helps the body utilize fat and is an essential component of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that plays a crucial role in brain function. Choline also enhances liver and gallbladder function, helps maintain the myelin sheaths (nerve fiber coverings), and is combined in the body with glycerol and phosphate to create lecithin, an important fat and cholesterol emulsifier.

Good food souces of choline include Brewer's yeast, wheat germ, oybean lecithin, egg yolks, peanuts, fish, and organ meats. There are no specific signs of choline deficiency, although lack of the nutrient can result in impaired fat metabolism, loss of cell membrane integrity, and damage to the myelin sheaths. back to top

Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)

Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid) was popularized by two-time Nobel Laureate Linus Pauling due to its many functons in the body. One of the least stable vitamins, vitamin C cannot be manufactured in the body, and among food sources is only found in fruits and vegetables. In addition to acting as a potent anti-oxidant and immune system enhancer, vitamin C is essential for the formation of collagen, which acts as the basis for the body's connective tissue. As a result, vitamin C contributes to the overall health of blood vessels, capillary walls, cartilage, joint linings, ligaments, vertebrae, bones, teeth, and skin, and plays a vital role in wound healing. It also aids in the metabolism of amino acids and cholesterol, and in the synthesis of hormones, and helps the body cope with the effects of stress. In addition, vitamin C's detoxification properties make it useful for protecting the body against heavy metal toxicity, environmental pollutants, and nicotine poisoning. It is also effective in fighting bacterial and viral infections, and acts as a natural histamine, making it useful for dealing with allergies.

The best food sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits, rosehips, cherries, cantaloupe, papaya, strawberries, red and green peppers, parsley, and dark green and leafy vegetables.

Because vitamin C is not reasdily stored in the body, it must be daily supplied through the diet or supplementation. The most famous sign of vitamin C deficiency is scurvy, a disease that today is extremely rare. Other deficiency symptoms include anemia, reduced resistance to infections, increased tendency towards bruising, slow wound healing, bleeding gums, and mouth ulcers. back to top

Bioflavonoids

Bioflavonoids are water-soluble nutrients that act as co-factors with vitamin C and commonly occur in the same food sources. Like vitamin C, bioflavonoids were discovered by Albert Szent-Gyorgi in the 1930s. The most well-known bioflavonoids include catechin, citrin, flavonals, flavones, hesperidin, quercitin, and rutin. Together, they are sometimes referred to as vitamin P due to their ability to increase permeability factor, meaning they enhance the ability of other nutrients, oxygen, and carbon dioxide to pass through capillary walls. Their other main function lies in increasing capillary strength and integrity, thereby helping to prevent them from hemorrhaging. Bioflavonoids also improve the body's absorption of vitamin C, and therefore play a role in the formation and maintenance of collagen.

The best food sources of bioflavonoids are the same as those for vitamin C. Bioflavonoid deficiency is rare, although a lack of this nutrient group can diminish the body's ability to utilize vitamin C, thus contributing to increased bruising and slower wound healing. back to top

Minerals

Minerals are found the body's fluids and tissues and make up approximately four percent of the body's total weight. Working in conjunction with vitamins, enzymes, hormones, and other substances, minerals play an important role in numerous biological functions, including the growth and maintenance of bones and teeth, muscle contraction, nerve transmission, blood formation, energy production, fluid regulation, macronutrient metabolism, acid-alkaline balance (pH), and various other enzymatic reactions. Nutrient minerals are classified according to how much of the body's total weight they comprise. Macrominerals comprise at least .01 percent of body weight, while trace or microminerals constitute less than .01 percent. An adequate supply of both macro- and trace minerals are equally important for optimal health, however.

Macrominerals include calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and sodium, while trace minerals include chromium, cobalt, copper, iodine, iron, manganese, molybdenum, selenium, sulphur, and zinc. back to top

Calcium

Calcium is the most plentiful mineral in the human body, with approximately 99 percent of it occurring in bone tissue, and the remaining one percent being used for a variety of other functions, including blood clotting, muscle contracion, and nerve function. Healthy teeth and bones both depend on adequate calcium supply, and calcium also contributes to healthy skin, helps regulate cardiovascular function and blood pressure levels, aids in the metabolism of iron, and is required for proper cell division.

Calcium must be daily supplied to the body through the diet or supplementation. The best food soruces of calcium include milk, yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese, dark green leafy vegetables, broccoli, turnip and collard greens, salmon, sardines, canned fish, almonds, and Brazil nuts. The standard American diet is estimated to supply only one- third of our daily calcium needs.

Signs of calcium deficiency include bone and skeletal problems (most notably osteoporosis and fracture), anxiety, brittle nails, depression, insomnia, muscle cramps and twitching, and diminished nerve function. Calcium is best supplemented as part of a multivitamin/multi-mineral formula.

Note: Excessive amounts of calcium over time can lead to kidney stones and soft tissue calcification, and possibly contribute to arteriosclerosis. back to top

Chloride

Chloride is an essential part of hydrochloric acid (HCl), a vital stomach digestive acid, and also plays a role in regulating the body's acid-balance. It is also useful in helping the liver eliminate toxins, and for transporting carbon dioxide to the lungs for excretion. Among the best food sources of chloride are common table salt, sea salt, seaweeds, celery, lettuce, and tomatoes. The standard American diet contains more than enough chloride due to its high salt content.

Chloride loss can easily occur following bouts of diarrhea or vomiting, as well as periods of profuse perspiration. Overall, however, chloride deficiencies are rare, with the most common symptoms being acid-base imbalances and over alkalinity of body fluids. back to top

Magnesium

Magnesium acts as a muscle relaxant in the body, and is involved in hundreds of enyzmatic reactions. Approximately 65 percent of the body's magnesium supply is contained in the bones and teeth, with the second highest concentration occurring in the muscles. The remaining magnesium supply is found in the blood and other body fluids. In addition to its ability to relax smooth and skeletal muscles, magnesium is an important nutrient for the heart, especially in preventing spasms of the coronary arteries, which can cause heart attacks. It is also needed for energy production, the maintenance and repair of cells, healthy cell division, proper nerve transmission, hormone regulation, and the metabolism of proteins and nucleic acids.

Foods sources of magnesium are primarily plants rich in chlorophyll, particularly dark green vegetables. Nuts, seeds, legumes, tofu, wheat germ, millet, brown rice, apricot, and avocado are other good sources.

Magnesium deficiency is now considered more common than many physicians realize, due to factors such as poor diet, overcooking, deficient soil, and the overuse of alcohol. Deficiency symptoms include depression, fatigue, gastrointestinal disorders, high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, memory problems, mood swings, impaired motor skills, muscle spasm, nausea, and tetany. back to top

Phosphorus

Phosphorus ranks second behind calcium as the body's most abundant mineral. It is found in every cell of the body, but primarily (approximately 85 percent) in the bones and teeth. In addition to contributing to bone and teeth structure, phosphorus helps form DNA and RNA, catalyzes B-complex vitamins, is involved in cellular communication and numerous enzymatic reactions, and helps produce energy and increase endurance.

The best food sources of phosphorus are protein foods, such as meats, fish, poultry, eggs, milk, and cheese. Other good sources include nuts, seeds, wheat germ, whole grains, and Brewer's yeast. The standard American diet can be over-high in its phosphorus content, especially with regard to soda, which can contain up to 500 mg of phosphorus per serving and create calcium-phosphorus imbalance.

Because phosphorus is contained in all animal foods, phosphorus deficiency is rare. Overuse of antacids, excessive calcium intake, and lack of vitamin D can all result in phosphorus deficiency, however. Signs of deficiency include anxiety, arthritis, impaired bone growth, irritability, and weakness. back to top

Potassium

Potassium, along with chloride and sodium, is an electrolyte, or essential body salt, that conducts electric current throughout the body. Approximately 98 percent of the body's potassium supply is contained inside the walls of the cells, where it regulates water and acid-base balance. It is vital to cellular integrity and fluid balance, and plays an important role in nerve function. It also helps metabolize proteins and carbohydrates, aids in energy production, and helps regulate heartbeat.

Optimum food sources of potassium are fresh fruits and vegetables, with bananas being a particularly rich source. Whole grains, seeds, nuts, wheat germ, salmon, and sardines are also good food sources.

Potassium deficiencies are fairly common, particularly among older people and people suffering chronic disease. Diarrhea, diabetes, fasting, and the overuse of diuretics and laxatives all contribute to potassium loss. Deficiency symptoms include irregular heartbeat, depression, fatigue, high blood pressure, hyperglycemia, impaired growth, mood swings, and unhealthy changes in the nervous system. back to top

Sodium

Sodium is also present in all of the body's cells, as well as the blood and other body fluids. Approximately 60 percent of the body's sodium content is contained in extra-cellular (outside the cells) fluids, with 10 percent cl found inside the cells, and the remainder occurring in the bones. Like potassium, sodium helps maintain the body's fluid balance within and without the cells, thereby regulating the body's acid-base balance. It also helps transport carbon dioxide, and plays a role in muscle contraction and nerve transmission. In addition, sodium is involved in the production of hydrochloric acid, and helps transport amino acids into the bloodstream to all the cells of the body.

Nearly all foods contain some degree of sodium, with seafood, beef, and poultry containing particularly high amounts. The primary dietary source of sodium is table salt, and sodium is also present in significant amounts in most canned and processed foods. Chronic sodium deficiency is rare, although sodium loss can occur because of diarrhea, vomiting, profuse perspiration due to athletics and other strenuous activity, and the overuse of diuretics. Problems related to excessive sodium intake are far more common among people who eat the standard American diet, and can lead to high blood pressure and PMS, among other conditions. Deficiency symptoms include dehydration, low blood pressure, muscle cramping and twitching, and muscle weakness. back to top

Chromium

Chromium is an essential component of glucose tolerance factor (GTF), which enhances insulin function, making it vital for proper carbohydrate metabolism and for regulating blood sugar levels. By improving how glucose is transported into the cells, chromium and GTF are also important for energy production. Research suggests that chromium may also be useful for regulating body cholesterol levels.

One of the best food sources of chromium is Brewer's yeast. Other food sources include wholegrain breads and cereals, wheat germ, eggs, meats, and shellfish. Chromium deficiency is quite common, especially in the United States, due to mineral-depleted soils and over-reliance of refined and processed foods. In addition, many people have problems absorbing chromium, particularly as they age. Deficiency symptoms include diabetes-like blood sugar problems caused by a reduction in peripheral tissue sensitivity to glucose. Anxiety, fatigue, and impaired cholesterol metabolism are also associated with a lack of chromium in the diet. back to top

Cobalt

Cobalt, in addition to being a component of cobalamin (vitamin B12), plays an essential role in the production of red blood cells, and is involved in a number of enzymatic reactions. Adequate vitamin B12 intake normally provides sufficient amounts of cobalt to the body. Food sources include beets, green cabbage, figs, legumes, lettuce, liver, and seafish and sea vegetables. Cobalt deficiencies are similar to those caused by a lack of B12, including anemia and nerve damage. back to top

Copper

Copper is present in all body tissues, but is particularly concentrated in the liver and brain. It aids in the manufacture of collagen and hemoglobin, and, along with iron, is necessary for the synthesis of oxygen in red blood cells. It also acts as an antioxidant, increases iron absorption, and serves as a catalyst for a variety of enzymatic reactions.

The best food sources of copper include dark green leafy vegetables, eggs, organ meats, poultry, nuts, shellfish, and wholegrain breads and cereals. Although dangerous copper deficiencies are rare, less serious copper deficiencies are more common. Symptoms include anemia, dermatitis, diarrhea, edema, fatigue, impaired collagen production, labored respiration, and tissue and blood vessel damage. back to top

Iodine

Iodine is essential for healthy thyroid function due to the role it plays in the production of thyroid hormones. In this role, it helps regulate metabolism and energy production in the body, as well as cellular oxidation. Since thyroid hormones plays a role in all body functions, iodine is of vital importance to overall health, yet iodine deficiency is estimated to affect at least 200 million people worldwide, due in part to depleted soil conditions.

The best food sources of iodine are iodized salt, followed by seafood and seaweed. Deficiency symptoms include fatigue, goiter, hypothyroidism, decreased libido, impaired mental functioning, impaired metabolism, and weight gain. back to top

Iron

Iron is present all the cells of the body, usually in combination with protein. Iron's primary function is the manufacture of hemoglobin, which is integral to the transport of oxygen throughout the body. Iron is also essential for healthy immune function and energy production. Research suggests it may additionally play a role in protecting cells and tissues from damage due to oxidation.

Among the best food sources of iron are beef, Brewer's yeast, kelp, molasses, organ meats, dark green leafy vegetables, legumes, oysters, and sardines. In supplement form, it is best taken with vitamin C, which aids in its assimilation.

Women, especially during their childbearing years, require more iron than men, particularly during pregnancy and menstruation. Approximately 10 percent of all women in the Western world are estimated to be iron-deficient. Children and the elderly are also more prone to iron deficiency. Deficiency symptoms include iron- deficiency anemia, dizziness, fatigue, headache, learning disabilities, lowered immunity, and impaired sleep. back to top

Manganese

Manganese supports a variety of enzymatic reactions in the body, and is essential for proper brain function and the overall health of the nervous system. It also helps metabolize proteins and carbohydrates, and is required for cholesterol and fatty acid synthesis, as well as collagen formation. The best food sources of manganese are green leafy vegetables (especially spinach), nuts, organ meats, and wholegrain breads and cereals.

Manganese deficiency in humans is rare. Deficiency symptoms include dizziness, hearing problems, and weakness. back to top

Molybdenum

Molybdenum, along with copper, is necessary for the body's proper utilization of iron, and aids in metabolizing carbohydrates. It also helps the body detoxify potentially toxic sulfites commonly used to preserve food. Molybdenum deficiency is rare, and is primarily caused by eating foods grown in molybdenum-deficient soils or a diet high in refined and processed foods. Deficiency symptoms include anemia and a greater risk of dental caries. Excessive molybdenum intake can also result in various symptoms, including gout-like symptoms and elevated uric acid levels. back to top

Selenium

Selenium in recent decades has become recognized as an important antioxidant capable of performing many of the same antioxidant functions as vitamin E, including protecting cellular membranes from free radical damage, and minimizing the risk of cardiovascular disease. In addition, selenium aids liver function, assists in the manufacture of proteins, helps neutralize heavy metals and other toxic substances, and acts as an anti-carcinogen.

The best food sources of selenium include Brewer's yeast, wheat bran and wheat germ, Brazil nuts, organs meats, and seafood. A number of plant foods, such as broccoli, onions, and tomatoes, can also be good sources, depending on the soil content in which they are grown.

Symptoms of selenium deficiency can mimic those common to a lack of vitamin E and also result in an increased risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and stroke. back to top

Sulphur

Sulphur occurs in all cells and body tissues, especially those high in protein content. It is a necessary nutrient for collagen formation, and is involved in the synthesis of protein. In addition, sulfur helps maintain the health of hair, skin, and nails. It also plays a role in a number of enzymatic reactions, and contributes to the process of cellular respiration. The best food sources of sulfur are those high in protein, such as eggs, fish, legumes, meat, milk, and poultry. Plant food sources include Brussels sprouts, cabbage, garlic, onions, and turnips.

No deficiency symptoms for sulfur have been established. back to top

Zinc

Zinc is one of the most important mineral nutrients and is necessary for the proper function of over 200 enzymatic reactions in the body. It also acts as a potent antioxidant and detoxifier, and is essential for growth and development, healthy body tissues, regulation of insulin, proper immune function, and, in men, the heath of the prostate gland. In addition, zinc plays a vital role in cellular membrane structure and function, and helps maintain adequate levels of vitamin A in the body.

The best food sources of zinc include herring, shellfish (especially oysters), egg yolk, milk, and beef and other meats. Whole grain breads and cereals, nuts, and Brewer's yeast are other food sources. Zinc deficiency is quite common, with vegetarians, because they avoid animal foods, having a particularly high risk unless they consume adequate amounts of whole grains and other non-animal foods containing zinc.

Symptoms of zinc deficiency include impaired energy production and protein synthesis, and sub-optimal formation of collagen. Other symptoms include dermatitis, fatigue, greater risk of environmental sensitivity, hair loss, impaired immune function, diminished libido, and greater risk of prostate conditions.

Note: Zinc can interfere with copper absorption, therefore zinc and copper supplements should be taken apart from each other. back to top

 

 

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