Must have supplements for the New Year
Vitamins and why we need them
A vitamin can be described as an essential nutrient that all living beings must acquire in tiny amounts from their diet to continue living. It is a chemical that is essential for the body but can’t be produced by the body, as a result, it must be ingested.
You can benefit from taking vitamin supplements if you
- Drink a lot of alcohol
- Are a vegetarian
- Eat a lot of unhealthy foods with fewer vegetables and fruits
- Have an unhealthy weight
- Have a medical condition
Different types of vitamins play different roles in the body. A summary of some of the functions and the vitamins that perform those functions are tabled below;
|Body Function||Key Vitamins|
|Anti-aging(antioxidant) function||Vitamin C and E|
|Body Chemistry and nerve function||All B vitamins|
|Immune support||Vitamin A, D, C, Folic acid, and pantothenic acid|
|Sexual function and reproduction||Vitamin C, Niacin and folic acid|
|Tissue (and bone) support||Vitamins A, C, and D|
Vitamin D in the strictest sense does not fit the definition of a vitamin. It becomes a hormone called calcitriol (active vitamin D) after the body metabolises it. A hormone is a chemical in the body that regulates our physiology.
Vitamin D is known to occur in two forms; Vitamin D2 found in plants and Vitamin D3 the form found in animals. All these are formed when ultraviolet rays of the sun act upon a form of cholesterol.
Vitamin D nor Vitamin D3 on its own is active in the body and will have to be converted into an active form (calcitriol) by the liver and kidneys. Because of this, any diseases in the liver or kidneys will affect the production of calcitriol in the body. The production of active vitamin D in organs and tissues other than the kidneys normally doesn’t spill over into the bloodstream to raise the active vitamin D in the blood.
Why we need Vitamin D
The primary function of vitamin D is regulating calcium and phosphorous in the body to make bones very strong. Normal levels of active vitamin D in the body supports the breakdown of old bone and the creation of new ones. On the other hand, abnormal levels of calcitriol can cause the bones to be brittle which will cause it to break. As we age, we tend to lose more bone than we make and because of this, it is important to have enough supply of vitamin D in the body to help prevent any unwanted medical conditions related to bone health.
Vitamin D also supports the normal function of the immune system. Calcitriol is known to have the ability to aid the functioning of the immune system. Immune system cells such as the T cells and macrophage cells need calcitriol. Vitamin D can modulate the innate and adaptive immune responses. Deficiency in vitamin D is associated with increased autoimmunity and an increased susceptibility to infection. As immune cells in autoimmune diseases are responsive to the ameliorative effects of vitamin D, the beneficial effects of supplementing vitamin D-deficient individuals with autoimmune disease may extend beyond the effects on bone and calcium homeostasis.
Where do you get Vitamin D
Cholecalciferol, also known as Vitamin D3 is made in the skin when ultraviolet light reacts with a form of cholesterol in the body. As a fat-soluble vitamin, vitamin D that has been produced in the skin can be stored in the body for long. Sunlight exposure is the main and common source of vitamin D and regular exposure to the sun may be enough to get all the vitamin D that is required by the body.
There are also very limited food sources of vitamin D. Some food manufacturers fortify their foods to extra vitamin D in order to provide enough vitamin D to the body. These dietary sources become important in regions or times where there this not enough sun exposure. Some of the examples of foods that may be fortified with vitamin D are cereals, oily fish and fat spreads.
Supplements are also an excellent source of vitamin D if you can’t get enough from your diet or from the sun’s exposure. In the UK, the NHS is offering a service that provides free vitamin D supplements if you’re at high risk from coronavirus (COVID-19). The NHS recommends that, during autumn and winter, everyone is advised to take vitamin D to keep their bones and muscles healthy and to support their general health. To use this free service, visit https://www.nhs.uk/get-vitamin-d-supplements/check-vitamin-d-is-suitable
What is the recommended daily dose of Vitamin D
The recommended daily dose of Vitamin D for adults is 10 micrograms a day. This also applies to pregnant and breastfeeding women, and people at risk of vitamin D deficiency.
Omega 3 Fish Oil
There are two types of fats that can be found in foods; saturated fats and unsaturated fats. Most fats and oils contain both saturated and unsaturated fats in different proportions, however, unsaturated fats offer health benefits than saturated fats. Unsaturated fats can also occur either as monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats. Omega 3 fats are examples of polyunsaturated fats
There are different types of omega-3 fatty acids that affects the body in different ways. The types that are found in plant foods are very different from those found in fish. There is significant evidence that confirms that 2 long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) provide significant health benefits.
Source: The ultimate omega-3 diet
Benefits of omega 3 fish oil. Why we need Omega 3 Fish Oil
Omega 3 fatty acids have cardioprotective properties and support in maintaining a healthy heart. The UK dietary guidelines for cardiovascular disease acknowledge the importance of long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in reducing heart disease risk. Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are one of the most common causes of deaths in the world and there is ample evidence to suggest that Omega 3 fatty acids may help in reducing the risks of CVDs.
Omega-3 Fatty acids are good anti-inflammatory fats and very useful in helping to fight inflammation in the body. This has many implications for inflammation and autoimmune-related disorders, such as arthritis, lupus, allergies, inflammatory bowel disease, and asthma.
Omega-3 plays an important role in supporting normal brain health as they are critical building blocks of the brain and the eyes. Just as we need calcium to support healthy bones, we also need omega-3 to help support the brain. The brain is known to have the second-highest concentration of fat in the body so it is important that we supply it with the right fats.
Other health benefits of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids include supporting mental health such as depression and bipolar disorder, supporting bone health, and also helping with normal blood flow.
Where we can get Omega 3 Fish Oil
Fishes are the primary sources of Omega-3 fatty acids. Oily fish such as tuna, sardines, salmon, mackerel, and herring are some examples of food sources of omega-3. Some plant sources of omega-3 fats are flax meal, rapeseed, sunflower, and flaxseed oil.
Vitamin C is one of the commonest and most popular supplements on the market. Vitamin C also became very popular thanks to the work done by Nobel-prize winning scientist Linus Pauling who directed research on vitamin C until his death. After becoming convinced of the benefits of vitamin C, Pauling took up to 25 grams of the vitamin every day for years until he died at the age of 96.
Why we need Vitamin C
Vitamin C is known to be one of the most important antioxidants in the body. It works to safeguard the water-soluble substances in the body from damage from free radicals. Vitamin C can protect many indispensable molecules in the body, such as proteins and fats from damage by free radicals. It also helps in the regeneration of vitamin E and beta-carotene after they have performed their role as antioxidants.
Vitamin C is also known for the role it plays in reducing the symptoms associated with colds and flu. It has antihistamine effects which help reduce the symptoms of a stuffy nose and also reducing the likelihood of a cold progressing to pneumonia.
Other important benefits of vitamin C are;
- It helps wounds heal faster
- Vitamin C helps support the normal function of the immune system and may provide protection from diseases.
- It may help with conditions such as high cholesterol, cataracts, diabetes, and asthma.
Getting Vitamin C
The recommended daily amount for vitamin C intake ranges from 200mg to 2000 mg per day. Good food sources of vitamin C are fruits such as orange, strawberry, avocado, and vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, and carrots. Vitamin C is easily leached out into water during cooking and can be lost through heat and exposure to light.
Vitamin C supplements can be easily obtained from grocery stores or online marketplaces. As a water-soluble vitamin, vitamin C is rapidly absorbed and eliminated from the body so when taking vitamin C supplements, it is ideal to take them throughout the day to ensure its availability.
Our intestinal tract contains one hundred trillion (1014) microorganisms. These are bacteria and yeasts that are not visible to the eye. About 95% of these microorganisms are good for the body and help us stay healthy. These microorganisms sometimes known as microbes can also be bad and may cause unwanted infectious diseases if not dealt with. Generally, bad microbes such as E. coli and Candida albicans that live in the intestines do not cause any disease-like symptoms.
The good microbes in the body are known as probiotics and these help us stay healthy. The probiotics prefer a more acidic intestinal environment and things like stress and diet can reduce the number of probiotics in the intestinal tract.
Why we need Probiotics
Probiotics are required for us to maintain a healthy body. They play an important role in areas such as nutrition digestion and absorption and supporting the immune system. When it comes to digestion, probiotics support in the breakdown of food that was not fully digested. A typical example is the ability of certain strains of probiotics to help with the digestion of lactose in the small intestine. In addition, probiotics that are found in the colon help with the digestion of some forms of fiber.
Probiotics are also known for the role they play in promoting a healthy immune system. The intestine which is the largest compartment of the immune system are lined with cells that are known as epithelial cells and these are specifically designed to help the body carefully interact with its environment. For example, if you introduce an unwanted substance into the intestines and the body decides that this is a foreign invader, an immune reaction will occur in an attempt to rid the body of this invader. There is also significant research that suggests that the interaction between microbes in our intestinal tract, the epithelial cells, and eventually the immune cells are beneficial to the body. In short, probiotics are critical to your immune health.
Probiotics also have the ability to synthesize vitamins. One of the numerous benefits of probiotics that have been known for some time is that commensal bacteria produce vitamins, particularly B vitamins which play an important role in energy metabolism.
It is very important to maintain a large number of good microbes in the digestive tract over bad bacteria. Some factors that can negatively affect the balance of good bacteria versus bad bacteria include; aging, depressed immunity, digestive tract infections, environmental pollution, unhealthy diet, and stress. In addition to these, the regular use of antibiotics can affect the number of good microbes in the body.
Where we can get probiotics
Probiotics are available in three different types of products;
- As a culture concentrate added to food (usually a dairy product)
- Grown into a milk-based food and fermented food
- Concentrated and dried as cells and packaged as supplements such as powders, capsules, or tablets. The amount of bacteria that is found in supplements are indicated by the number of colony-forming units, CFUs. Research supports that an adult probiotic supplement should contain 100 million CFUs to ensure that sufficient amounts survive through the stomach and bile acids to colonize in the lower intestines. Probiotic supplements vary in the levels of potency from 100 million to 100 billion CFUs.
Natural yogurts are great food sources of probiotics. Probiotic species that are commonly found in yogurt include Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Lactobacillus acidophilus, and Streptococcus thermophilus.
Factors to consider when buying vitamins and supplements
Price – You get what you pay for. Most often, the cheapest product may not be the best product and will contain low-grade ingredients. The most expensive on the other hand may also not be the best product and you will only be paying for a brand name and not necessarily the product. Buy products that offer you value for money.
Brand – Some brands are reputable and trustworthy from reliable companies. If you order from online companies, it is important to check where these companies or brands are located as some countries offer more and better regulation than others. There are many excellent products that are available on the web at decent prices.
The best way to take vitamin supplements
Vitamin supplements come in different forms, including tablets, capsules, powder, chewable, sprays, liquids, and gummies.
Capsules – Many powdered vitamins and supplements come in capsule form. Capsules are often considered to be easier to absorb and digest than tablets and are more readily available in the bloodstream. Capsules can be opened up for the powder to be sprinkled on foods, shakes, salads, etc
Chewable or Gummies – These have become very trendy and come in different shapes and sizes. Traditionally, gummies were offered to kids but in recent time have been available to all ages. It is important to note that gummies often contain high sugar, food coloring, binders, and finders and may contain very low doses of vitamins or nutrients.
Tablets – Tablets are the most common form of vitamin supplements on the market and they are known to have a longer shelf life than the other forms. It is also typically cheaper to produce and costs less than capsules or gummies.
Improving your health will be a good addition to your new year resolution. Supplements are an inexpensive way of ensuring that you are getting all the vitamins and nutrients that the body requires to stay healthy. Vitamin D, Vitamin C, Omega 3, and Probiotics are must-haves for anyone interested in achieving better health in the new year.
Blake, S., 2011. Vitamins & Minerals Demystified. New York: McGraw Hill Professional.
Dowd, J. and Stafford, D., 2008. The Vitamin D Cure. Hoboken, N.J: John Wiley.
Lands, W., 2005. Fish, Omega-3 And Human Health. Champaign, Ill.: AOCS Press.
Rubin, A., Pash, A. and Caplinger, C., 2011. Vitamin D For Dummies. Indianapolis, Ind.: Wiley Pub., Inc.
Tannis, A., 2011. Probiotic Rescue: How You Can Use Probiotics To Fight Cholesterol, Cancer. John Wiley & Sons.
Tribole, E., 2007. The Ultimate Omega-3 Diet. New York: McGraw-Hill.