The Top 10 Nutritional Supplements For Women
TOPIC: WOMEN’S SUPPLEMENTS
The Office of Dietary Supplements of the
National Institutes of Health has found that the use of supplements is associated with individuals who “maintain a low body mass index (<25), engage in greater physical activity, enjoy excellent or very good health, have never smoked or are former smokers, and drink wine.” These people are playing The “Is It Healthy? Game, and making supplement use a part of their positive lifestyles.
What are the Top 10 Women’s Supplements? Save time. Here’s the list:
To find out why these ten make the list, keep reading . . .
Food First: Supplements Supplement.
Nothing can replace the energy and nutrients we reap from eating whole, fresh, and lively food. Think of brilliantly colored, delicious fresh fruits and vegetables, rich brown grains, wholesome dairy foods, lean meats from healthy animals, and fish from lively rivers and deep blue seas. Real food only comes from nature – and contains much more than vitamins and minerals.
In the US today, half of our meals are eaten out, and, according to the USDA, only 7 percent of our daily calories come from plants, beans included. Most of this 7% is potatoes, usually eaten fried or as chips.
The health of peoples who adhere to a plant-based diet is in stark contrast to ours. For example, in Laos, the average person eats approximately 90 percent of total calories from plant foods (including rice). There, only 5 percent of all deaths are from heart disease or cancer.
In addition, real food contains components that may yet be recognized as necessary. (A simple tomato contains over 10,000 ingredients.) Food can only be enhanced by supplements. It cannot be replaced by them.
Why Take Supplements?
There are three basic reasons for taking supplements:
1) “Cheap health insurance”. Many of us rely on our multivitamin-mineral formula to cover our dietary deficiencies and excesses. We trust that this will help keep our bodies in good working order.
2) Stress. Even with all our labor saving/time saving devices, we are more stressed than ever. Adding to our stress, pollution has increased while the quality of our air, water, and food has decreased. Indeed, the highest quality food money can buy won’t cover the nutrients we use when we are stressed out. In addition, poor diet itself initiates the stress response.
3) Biochemical individuality. Our nutritional needs can be highly individualized. Years ago, the late Roger J. Williams, PhD (the biochemist who discovered vitamin B1), developed the theory of biochemical individuality. His research showed that people may have vastly different needs for any particular nutrient. Blood tests can reveal your nutrient status, providing a starting point for determining which nutrients you may need to modify.
The 80% Rule
Eat Right And Keep Fit – 80 percent of the time. (If that’s too much of the time, promise 50 percent and go for 80.) It’s no secret that we can drive ourselves nuts trying to be perfect. The result of unreasonable standards, perfectionism can defeat us. We may use our “failures” to beat ourselves up, or as an excuse to give up. Rather than being discouraged, we can continue toward our goal of building healthy habits.
By going for 80 percent success, we maintain our intent for good heath and leave room for parties, picnics, holidays, and other forms of carefree, celebratory eating. I am not going to tell you how to eat right and keep fit. Many of you could write that section. Rather, work on loving and accepting yourself for all your glory and all your frailty.
The Top 10 Discussed
Here, we list and discuss the Top 10 as they appear above.
1. Multivitamin-mineral supplement – Today, more than 40 percent of American adults take an MVM. This is a good thing. The bottom line is that these nutrients are essential to health. In fact, their one unifying criteria is that ultimately a deficiency is fatal.
The following nutrients are typically found in MVM formulas: vitamin A (as either retinol, pure vitamin A, or beta carotene)1, vitamin B complex, vitamins C, D, and E; the minerals calcium, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, zinc, selenium, and chromium. (If these latter two are not in your formula, change formulas or purchase them separately.) Other possible inclusions are iron, potassium, copper, and boron.
The nutrients discussed below (with the exception of vitamin K2) also occur in all MVM formulas. Our research shows that taking these particular nutrients in larger quantities supports optimal health.
2. Vitamin C – There are only four known mammal species that do not make their own vitamin C: fruit bats, rhesus monkeys, Guinea pigs, and humans. We are missing only one step in a process that allows the manufacture of vitamin C from glucose (blood sugar). Without vitamin C from an external source, a human would die of scurvy within a year.
The primary biochemical function of vitamin C is the synthesis of collagen, the body’s most important structural substance. It is a protein “glue” that holds the tissues and organs together. Without it, the body would simply disintegrate. Take 1000-3000 mg/d in divided doses.
3. Vitamin D – An intake of 2000 IU/d and very moderate exposure to sunlight could raise blood levels of this vitamin to those associated with a 50 percent reduction in the incidence of breast cancer! This conclusion came from pooled results of two studies involving over 3500 women. The article by Garland, et al, University of California San Diego, was published in the Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.
Vitamin D3 has many more benefits than previously realized, possibly because it is actually a hormone and not a vitamin. Supplementation is widely accepted and encouraged. Take 1000-2000 IU/d, and up to 5000 when there is little sun.
4. Vitamin E – After years of scientific speculation about the actual mechanism of vitamin E, researchers Howard, McNeil, and McNeil proposed that vitamin E has a direct effect on muscle cells, enhancing repair. Vitamin E has long been linked with cardiovascular health, one reason may be that the heart is a muscle. Alpha-tocopherol, the most common form of the vitamin, was used in the study.
Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant that can slow aging, protect your brain, prevent heart disease, lower cancer risk, enhance immunity, and more. Common doses range from 400-1200 IU.
5. Vitamin K2 – Not vitamin K the blood coagulator (a phylloquinone), K2 (a group called menaquinones) is linked to both bone and heart health. K2 affects bone because it directs calcium to the bones. Otherwise, it can default to the arteries, where it results in atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries, a heart disease risk factor). These functions of K2 keep the bones strong and the arteries clean and flexible, promoting both bone and heart health.2 Inversely, when K2 is not present, the result is calcification of the arteries and reduced bone density.
The best source of K2 is a fermented Japanese food called natto, containing the active ingredient menaquinone-7. Natto is widely available in supplement form at natural product stores. Dose at 45-90 mcg daily.
6. Calcium – Well known as the most abundant constituent of bones and teeth, one percent remains in the blood where it is essential to the synthesis of hormones and enzymes. It also helps blood to clot, strengthens cell membranes, and is an electrolyte, imperative to nerve transmission.
The current NIH recommendation is 1000-1500 mg/d of calcium. They recommend a citrate-based calcium supplement. However, your diet may already supply your calcium requirement, particularly if you include milk and milk products. (For example, milk contains 300 mg in just 8 oz while 2 oz of hard cheese has 530 mg.) Other calcium foods commonly eaten by healthy people include greens and seaweed. Also on the list are egg yolks, almonds, sesame seeds, tofu, and canned sardines.
7. Magnesium – Called “the woman’s mineral”, several problems related to the female reproductive system can be improved by raising magnesium levels: PMS, cramping, certain complications of pregnancy, and osteoporosis. Women with PMS have significantly lower magnesium levels than women not experiencing it. Also, because it is a muscle relaxant, magnesium helps with any muscle cramping. Supplementation alone will likely end both PMS and menstrual cramps. Deficiency is linked to preeclampsia, preterm delivery, and fetal growth retardation. Supplementation may reduce the complications of pregnancy and improve the health of the newborn.
Few people realize that magnesium is as important as calcium in the treatment and prevention of osteoporosis. For women, the risk of osteoporosis increases greatly after menopause. Women with osteoporosis have lower levels of magnesium in their bones and more signs of deficiency than women with strong bones.
Lastly, magnesium is important to every aspect of heart health. Meanwhile heart disease is the most prevalent killer of women in the US. Protect your health, balance calcium intake with at least half as much magnesium (as citrate). The late Mildred Seelig, PhD, recommended calculating magnesium needs by dividing our weight by 2.2 and multiplying the result by 6 mg. A 150 lb woman would take 400 mg/d. Magnesium needs are increased by 150 mg/d during pregnancy.
8. Strontium – A little-known bone builder, strontium was first tested by the Mayo Clinic in 1959. Strontium’s has three outstanding effects on bone: 1) cuts risk of fracture by nearly 60 percent; 2) more effective than calcium and vitamin D combined; 3) helps to maintain and relieve pain.
Commentary: 1) A study of women over 80 showed fracture risk was lower by 59 percent in 12 months; 2) A study in NEJM showed women taking strontium not only lowered fracture risk they also increased bone density in their backs and necks by 14.4 and 8.3 percent respectively; 3) Studies show height loss slowed by 20 percent relieving back pain at the same time. The recommendation for strontium is 500 mg/d.
9. Fish Oil – Omega 3 fatty acids from fish oil have a great health track record: improved heart health, anti-inflammatory action, enhanced immunity, mood elevation, and arthritis relief. It is very important for the promotion of brain health and vision development in infants. Among the more than 20,000 articles, further findings suggest its usefulness with ADHD, menstrual pain, and more.
A recent study from the Harvard School of Public Health reported that omega 3 deficient diets cause up to 96,000 preventable deaths annually in the US. Researchers declared this deficiency as the sixth highest killer of Americans. The numbers are shocking given that these deaths are easily preventable with the daily intake of a fish oil supplement.
Omega 3 fatty acids are essential to health but relatively rare in nature. Sources include fish and other wild game, flaxseed, perilla seed, and walnuts. Recommendation: 3000 – 6000 mg (3-6 grams) to guarantee sufficient EPA and DHA, the names of the active omega 3 fatty acid compounds.
10. Adaptogen – Adaptogenic substances come from plants and have the ability to help our bodies adapt to stress. The vast majority of us are overworked, over-stressed, fatigued, and burned out. Adaptogens make us stress resistant. Their action is on the central nervous system, cardiovascular system, and endocrine system. The most famous of the adaptogens is classic Asian (Panax) ginseng. Others include Siberian eleuthero (previously called Siberian “ginseng” and very widely studied), ashwaganda (“Indian ginseng”), holy basil (also Indian), Rodiola rosea (from Northern Europe), jiaogulan (China’s “immortality herb”), and maca (the Peruvian root).
Adaptogens are dose dependent. If you don’t take enough, you won’t get the results you want. Follow label directions.
The Top 10 Discussed
1 Pure vitamin A only occurs in animal foods, such as liver and egg yolks. (Supplements are commonly derived from fish liver.) Animals produce vitamin A from food and so do we. Beta carotene is the premier precursor and is found in a wide variety of yellow and yellow orange produce.
2 Hardening of the arteries is a complex process of mineralization that actually resembles bone formation. New research indicates that K2 may be able to reverse already hardened arteries.
Over 40? Consider CoQ10, DHEA, & Melatonin
As we enter our 40s, our bodies begin to shutdown their production of some biochemicals. You know about the hormones estrogen and progesterone (in men, testosterone). DHEA and melatonin are hormones. CoQ10 is a co-enzyme. All three of these are available at natural product stores and all three are worthy of supplementation.
CoQ10 is necessary for the energy production of every cell. It also strengthens the heart, revitalizes the immune system, controls periodontal disease, normalizes blood pressure, and protects from the effects of aging. According to cardiologist Stephen T. Sinatra, MD, CoQ10 not only improves lives, it saves lives. Recommendations range from 30 – 300 mg/d.
DHEA is an anti-aging hormone. It is readily converted into estrogen, testosterone, progesterone, and corticosterone. A huge amount of research has shown that adequate levels of DHEA may be useful in preventing and treating heart disease, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, cancer, immune disorders, chronic fatigue, and Alzheimer’s and other memory disturbances.
Recommendations range from 5 – 15 mg for women. [I recommend you work with an antiaging specialist to determine your dose. – Ed.]
Melatonin, secreted by the pineal gland, regulates the body’s biological clock. The pineal gland responds to the sun. The release of melatonin follows a 24 hour circadian rhythm, and darkness stimulates its release. Sleep is not its primary purpose, but a happy by-product.
Some research has investigated melatonin and its effects against cancer. A report published in the July 20, 2005 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute revealed a correlation between greater levels of [a metabolite of] melatonin in the urine and a lowered risk of invasive breast cancer in women. (Melatonin, a naturally occurring substance, cannot be patented. Thus research funds are slow in materializing.)
During menopause, many women turn to melatonin as a sleep aid. The usual dose is 3 – 5 mg, taken about ½ hour before bed.
The “Is It Healthy?” Game*
The “Is It Healthy?” Game is a simple way of tracking the effects of your choices on your personal health and on the health of your family, your surroundings, and, ultimately, the planet.
You just ask, “Is It Healthy?” at the appropriate choice points. You’re about to drive through a fast food place to pick up a quickie meal, ask yourself, “Is It Healthy?” Maybe this is the night to steam that broccoli before it loses its vitality.
And, remember the 80% Rule. This is your leeway. You don’t always have to make the healthy choice. However, if it’s Wednesday and you haven’t gotten any exercise yet this week, maybe it’s time to take a walk,…
The Game is not just about “knowing” how to be healthy. It’s about making healthiness a part of who you are. When we become committed to filtering our choices through the context of The “Is It Healthy?” Game, our actions result in miraculous and unpredictable consequences. For one, more health shows up in our lives.
Playing the game powerfully comes from playing it in all areas of your life. Watch the carbon footprint of the food you buy. Consider energy saving devices. Be conservative about your driving habits. Within your sphere of influence (which may be much larger than you think), promote The “Is It Healthy?” Game.
You win every time you ask, “Is It Healthy?” and answer, “Yes.”
In this newsletter, we have discussed what I call the Matrix supplements, those supplements that benefit everybody.
However, there are many supplements which target specific conditions. I call these Target supplements. Here, the closest we come to a Target supplement is the adaptogens. That is because as a population, we are constantly under stress and adaptogens can help our bodies to cope. Thus, they are classified with the Matrix supplements.
This newsletter precurses our eBook The Top 10 Nutritional Supplements For Women. The book gives far more consideration to the topics covered here. In addition, we discuss the importance of women to the economy and include the chapters “The Reproductive Years” and “Women Of A Certain Age”.