Published on June 17, 2014.
Researchers from the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University and three other institutions have taken issue with recent claims that “the case is closed” on whether or not a multivitamin/mineral supplement should be taken by most people to help obtain needed micronutrients.
In a correspondence to be published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the researchers reasoned that this type of dietary supplement helps fill nutritional gaps, improves general health, might help prevent chronic disease, will cause no harm and is easily worth the few cents a day that it costs.
To “call the case closed” is wrong and “misinforms the public and the medical community,” the researchers wrote. Their statements were a response to an editorial in the same publication last year that argued that such supplements are unnecessary and received widespread publicity.1
Super nutrients play an important role in enhancing our health and improving our sense of well being. These substances are generally not considered vitamins or minerals but are classified as “food components.”
Alpha-Lipoic acid is a potent antioxidant that helps neutralize the harmful effects of free radicals. It enhances the antioxidant activity of vitamins C and E as well as the enzyme glutathione. It assists the conversion of food into energy and is important in maintaining normal blood sugars. In addition, it has been effective in preventing and treating diabetic neuropathies. Alpha-Lipoic acid also assists the liver in detoxification, supports the nervous system, and helps provide energy within muscles.
Both bee pollen and propolis are produced from flowering plants and gathered by bees. They have natural antibacterial properties and help to stimulate the immune system. Many have found that these nutrients help to reduce fatigue, protect against allergies, and protect the mucous membranes from inflammation.
Blue-green algae is a nutrient-dense food derived from freshwater algae that is particularly high in vitamins, minerals, amino acids, protein, and chlorophyll. It has been reported to increase energy, improve mental clarity and sleep, assist assimilation and digestion, reduce stress, and strengthen the immune system.
Bovine cartilage helps to accelerate wound healing and to reduce inflammation. It appears to stimulate the immune system, and has been used clinically to treat conditions such as arthritis, psoriasis, and ulcerative colitis.
Chlorella is derived from a single-cell algae that is particularly high in chlorophyll, B vitamins, vitamin C, trace minerals, and amino acids. It is particularly high in vitamin B12. It has been found to clear toxins from the bloodstream and to protect against the damaging effects of radiation.
Cod liver oil is high in omega-3 fatty acids, containing eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), along with vitamins A and D. Omega-3 oil has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. Cod liver oil has been useful in treating dry skin and excessive buildup of earwax, and in treating children who are troubled with recurrent infections. As a result of its vitamin A and vitamin D content, excessive doses of cod liver oil can be toxic.
Creatine is a nutritional supplement frequently used to support athletic performance, commonly for short-duration, high-intensity workouts. Creatine supplements increase the intracellular levels of creatine phosphate, a compound used to make ATP and the body’s main source of energy during exercise. It appears that creatine monohydrate can increase the level of creatine in your muscles so that you can produce more ATP. Creatine monohydrate has been particularly helpful for those involved in short sprint performances, power lifting, and other forms of high-intensity training. Red meat is one of the main dietary sources of creatine. However, supplements are available that are free of fat and cholesterol. As a dietary supplement, I usually recommend taking up to 20 grams per day for five to seven days and then continuing a maintenance dose of 5-10 grams daily for a short period of time.
Evening primrose oil is particularly high in gamma-linoleic acid (GLA), an omega-6 fatty acid. It has been useful in treating premenstrual tension and relieving symptoms of allergies, arthritis, eczema, and autoimmune disorders. Recently, it has been shown to be of benefit to children who have been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder, hyperactivity, and dyslexia. It may also be effective in treating fibrocystic breast disease, premenstrual tension, and dysmenorrhea (painful menstrual periods). Other sources of GLA include borage oil and black currant oil.
Fish oils are particularly high in omega-3 fatty acids. These oils contain both EPA (eicosapentaneoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). Fish oils function as anti-inflammatories and have been useful in reducing symptoms of arthritis, lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels, reducing platelet stickiness, and reducing the symptoms of ulcerative colitis. In some cases, fish oils have been reported to reduce the symptoms associated with organ rejection after transplant and may prevent the closing up of the coronary arteries after an angioplasty. Omega-3 fatty acids are primarily found in cold-water fish such as salmon, cod, tuna, herring, and mackerel.
Flaxseed oil is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids and, in particular, alpha-linolenic acid. The seeds are particularly high in fiber and are helpful in treating constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, and digestive troubles such as inflammatory bowel disease and spastic colon. Flaxseed oil helps promote strong bones and healthy skin, and has been used to treat a variety of skin conditions, including eczema and psoriasis. Make sure you store flaxseed oil in the refrigerator and never use it in cooking.
FOS (Fructo-Oligosaccharides) is a probiotic that enhances the capabilities of the digestive tract. It helps maintain a healthy intestinal environment and promotes the growth of the naturally occurring friendly bacteria lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidus.
Grape seed extract is a potent source of proanthocyanidins, a naturally occurring substance with powerful antioxidant properties. It strengthens capillaries and connective tissue, acts as an antifungal, and also functions as an anti-inflammatory.
Green tea contains numerous antioxidant compounds known as polyphenols. Polyphenols, which are actually a type of flavonoid, protect the body against the harmful effects of free radicals. Green tea has been reported to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, lower cholesterol levels, and protect against cancer. The beneficial effects green tea have been attributed to the high content of catechin, a specific polyphenol with strong antioxidant potential.
Horse chestnut extract helps to support healthy circulation of the legs and has been used to treat varicose veins and chronic venous insufficiency. It support the overall health of the veins and may improve blood flow, reduce edema and leg pain, as well as combat free radical damage. You may also find that horse chestnut can help to get rid of spider veins. Escin, the active ingredient in horse chestnut extract, is responsible for promoting venous health. I generally recommend 250-500 mg of horse chestnut extract per day for at least three months for varicose veins.
Lecithin is a natural constituent of the fatty membranes of all cells. It is particularly high in the B vitamins choline and inositol. Lecithin has been used to prevent cardiovascular disease, to improve brain function, and to protect the liver against the ill effects of alcoholism. It helps to emulsify fats and may help to reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Olive leaf extract is thought to be a strong immune system booster. It has been found to alleviate sore throats, sinus infections, and has antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties. The beneficial properties are thought to be due to the compound oleuropein and its active ingredient, oleanolic acid. I have found that olive leaf extract may be more effective than antibiotics with fewer side effects. I generally recommend 250-500 mg per day to help prevent or combat infections.
The extract of red yeast fermented on rice has been a traditional Chinese remedy that has been used for more than 1,000 years for circulatory health. It may help to lower the total cholesterol, LDL or “bad” cholesterol, and raise the HDL or “good” cholesterol. Marketed as cholestin, this substance contains naturally occurring HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors which assist the metabolism of cholesterol. Although red yeast rice should not be used during pregnancy or lactation, it is generally well tolerated. However, a small percentage have complained of mild gastrointestinal problems or headaches. Overall, I have found that red yeast rice can be successfully used as an alternative for commonly prescribed cholesterol-lowering drugs.
SAMe, or S-adenosyl-methionine, a compound produced in the body from methionine and ATP, has been used both to improve joint health as well as mood. Vitamin B12 and folic acid also serve as cofactors in the production of SAMe. I have found it to be successful in the treatment of depression, often more effective than conventional antidepressants. SAMe has also been used to treat osteoarthritis and may be more effective than taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. You should not put SAMe in the refrigerator since it can add moisture and therefore accelerate oxidation of the supplement. For mild to moderate depression or osteoarthritis, I recommend taking 200-800 mg of SAMe per day. Doses up to 1,600 mg per day may be necessary for major depression. At higher doses, you might find that SAMe can cause mild headaches or occasional loose bowels. Overall, however, it appears to be a very safe and effective supplement.
Both shiitake (Lentinus edodes) and reishi mushrooms (Ganoderma lucidum) are widely used in the Far East. They have been associated with improved vitality and enhanced immune function. They may help to reduce the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure, lower blood cholesterol, reduce fatigue, and lower susceptibility to viral infections. Owing to their antitumor properties, these mushrooms may be useful in treating cancers.