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Vitamin E, A, B deficiencies

Vitamins Too much or Too Little for 2007?

 By Dr. Gifford Jones

“Do you want Ford or Cadillac vitamins?”, I asked readers in a previous column. This column triggered many requests and showed there’s much confusion about vitamins. Some readers had stopped taking vitamin E due to scary headlines. Others had tossed out calcium. Still others wondered if it’s possible to get too much of a good thing and where to obtain more information on vitamins.

An excess of anything can be poison. Too much vitamin A can cause birth defects in pregnant women and in others, severe liver damage. Hunters who eat bear’s liver which contains large amounts of vitamin A have suffered from liver failure. We need no more than 15,000 IU of A daily.

You can also get too much of iron. One person in 250 has an inherited disorder hemochromatosis in which iron accumulates in body organs and eventually destroys them.

A study of 1,300 men who took 200 micrograms (mcg) of selenium daily for four and a half years had a 75 percent less chance of prostate cancer and half the risk of colon malignancy. But taking 800 mcg daily can make the nails or hair brittle. Or hair may fall out. Moderation is usually the best course.

But rather than worrying about getting too many vitamins and minerals most people should be concerned about being deficient in them.

For example, vegetarians who do not eat meat or dairy products can be lacking in vitamin B-12. So can those older than 50 who may have insufficient stomach acid to absorb this vitamin. These groups need 25 mcg of vitamin B-12 daily. Others taking stomach acid blockers may need 250 to 500 mcg daily. A deficiency of B-12 can cause irreversible nerve damage and masquerade as Alzheimer’s disease.

Don’t place too much faith in one study that recently hit the headlines. For years it was believed that vitamin E was cardio-protective. Then it was reported that E did not prevent this problem and increased the risk of dying. But further studies show it’s an excellent antioxidant and helps to fight several degenerative diseases such as cataracts. I believe it’s still prudent to take this vitamin.

This year a study of 36,000 postmenopausal women revealed that calcium along with vitamin D (which helps to absorb calcium) failed to decrease the risk of bone fracture. But other researchers have shown that increased calcium results in a significant reduction in hip fractures. Besides, calcium has other important functions.

Calcium along with magnesium and potassium help to decrease blood pressure. Most people are not getting sufficient amounts of these minerals. So rather than being concerned about calcium, people should worry about the huge amount of salt consumed each day which contributes to hypertension. It also increases the rate of excretion of calcium in the urine which may have an adverse effect on osteoporosis.

We know that optimum health requires 22 different minerals. Minerals we need in tiny amounts are called trace minerals such as selenium, copper, zinc, manganese and chromium. These minerals are just as important to health as the major ones.

So what is a cadillac vitamin? Seven renowned researchers graded 500 nutritional supplements. The perfect score was 100, and no vitamin product reached that goal. I was shocked to learn that some products I had paid good money for scored only 15. As a Scot who wants to get value for his money that bothered me.

One multivitamin, multimineral product I had never heard of, “Extend Plus”, scored 93.1. It’s the old story “you get what you pay for” but unfortunately this vitamin is not available in Canada. For more information on Extend Plus you can call the toll-free # 1- 800-877-2447.

To find out more about Cadillac vitamins there’s also an excellent book “The Comparative Guide to Nutritional Supplements”. See the web site http://www.comparativeguide.com.

Taking a reliable daily multivitamin will prevent either under dosing or over dosing. It’s also best to take vitamins in divided doses in the morning and evening. But remember that no amount of vitamins will provide improved health without also following a healthy lifestyle.

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Dr. Gifford Jones  Bio
Dr. Gifford Jones Most recent columns

W. Gifford-Jones M.D is the pen name of Dr. Ken Walker graduate of The Harvard Medical School. He’s been a ship’s surgeon, hotel physician and family doctor and later trained in surgery at McGill in Montreal, University of Rochester N.Y. and Harvard. His medical column is published by 60 Canadian newspapers and several in the U.S. He is the author of seven books. Dr. Walker has a medical practice in Toronto. His Web site is: http://www.mydoctor.ca/gifford-jones



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