Take Your Vitamins
TURNING VITAMINS AND SUPPLEMENTS INTO AGE REDUCERS
Can vitamins make you younger? Yes. The right nutrients in the proper amounts help protect your body from needless ageing. Although we often hear about the recommended daily allowance (RDA), the minimum needed to prevent disease from deficiency, we should start thinking instead about the 'RealAge Optimum' (RAO), the dose you really need to stay as young as you could be.
• Hundreds of vitamins, minerals, herbs, and supplements are available for
sale. Learn some general guidelines for taking those that can keep you
young and avoiding those that will make you older. Taking the wrong
combination of vitamins or needless vitamins can make you 1.7 years older.
Difficulty rating: Quick fix
• Antioxidants are all the rage because of their supposed antiageing effect.
This section investigates those claims. What is oxidation? How does this
bodily equivalent of 'rusting' age your body? Vitamin C and vitamin E,
when taken together, work as an antioxidant team, keeping your arteries,
immune system, organs, and bones young. When taken consistently, these
vitamins can reduce your RealAge by as much as six years.
Difficulty rating: Quick fix
• Frail bones and arthritis are hallmarks of ageing. The danger of these
conditions can be reduced by getting the proper levels of calcium and
vitamin D. Getting 1,200 mg of calcium and 400IU (International Units)
of vitamin D a day can help make you 1.1 years younger.
Difficulty rating: Quick fix
Despite the hype over cholesterol, you may have to worry about something else even more: homocysteine. Homocysteine is an amino acid that is a by-product of various metabolic processes. High homocysteine levels correlate with the early onset of heart and vascular disease more than almost any other factor. But not to fear—by getting adequate amounts of folate (folic acid) daily, you can make your RealAge more than 1.2 years younger.
Difficulty rating: Quick fix
We would all like to eat a balanced diet, but not all of us can or do. The hectic pace of real life interferes. If you do not eat a regularly balanced diet, including six to eight servings of fruits and vegetables each day, you can get all the vitamin and mineral nutrition you need by taking a multivitamin daily in addition to the other supplements recommended in this chapter.
Difficulty rating: Quick fix
Besides vitamins E, C, and D; calcium; and folate, what should you be getting in your diet? Here we consider some of the latest nutrient fads. What are the possible benefits or side effects of such highly touted micronutrients as chromium picolinate and selenium, and such herbal remedies as echinacea? Avoiding inappropriate supplements and fads will make you one to four years younger.
Difficulty rating: Quick fix
Vitamins, vitamins, vitamins. How many times have you been told to take your vitamins? Your mother told you to eat your vegetables to get your vitamins. Now, more than likely, you take vitamins out of a bottle. But do you really know what and how much you should be taking?
Walk into a health-food store or down the vitamin aisle at your local drugstore, and you will see shelves overflowing with vitamins of all sorts, not to mention minerals and a whole panoply of supplements. There are multivitamins, individual vitamins, vitamin cocktails, stress vitamins, energy vitamins, herbs, minerals, pills, capsules, and drops; the same vitamins in different dosages and different formulations; and no clear instructions about what you should take, how much, or how often.
In the 1960s, Nobel Prize-winning chemist Linus Pauling asserted that by taking high doses of vitamin C, you could prevent the common cold. His assertions became a kind of folk remedy, and people readily began to take vitamin pills. Now 25 percent of all adults in the United States gulp down vitamin supplements regularly, and half take them occasionally.
I didn't realize exactly how consuming and confusing all this could be until Frank T. walked into my office one day, opened up a bag, and began pulling out bottles. Brown bottles, blue botdes, small bottles, big bottles. When he was done, he had thirty-five containers of vitamins, minerals, and supplements lined up on my desk.
Incredulous, I asked,' You take all of these every day?'
'Absolutely,' he replied. 'Some of them I take twice a day.' In all, he took some fifty tablets daily. Clearly, here was one organized man. This was a full-time job. At fifty-four, Frank was in good shape. He exercised vigorously and often, was trim, enjoyed a happy marriage, and was at the peak of his career. Recently he'd had a prostate scare, and that made him worry. He began reading up on his health and asking people at the health-food store. The results of his research—all thirty-five bottles worth—were now spread out in front of me like a Thanksgiving feast. Now he wanted to know what I thought.
'Fifty pills a day is too much,' I told him. 'Some of them are good for you, but some of them could be bad for you.' Then I gave Frank some basic guidelines for taking vitamins and outlined a specific plan that could do exactly what he wanted—keep him young.
General Rules About Vitamins
Before getting into the details of what vitamins you should take and which ones you shouldn't, I think it's worth pointing out some general considerations that apply to vitamin usage. To say that there is a difference between the practices advised by medical doctors and those advised by practitioners of alternative medicine would be an understatement. There has been a long history of debate between the two sides. Since this is clearly a controversial issue, let me make some points that can help you understand and untangle the debate. It's not so much that medical practice has dismissed alternative medicine outright—not at all—but, rather, that medical doctors, for the most part, like to have strong and convincing evidence that treatments help their patients before they advocate those treatments.
For doctors, one of the most frustrating aspects regarding the vast array of vitamins and supplements available is not that they don't work, but that we have no idea if they actually do work. With the exception of a few basic vitamins (C, D, E, B, and A) and a few minerals (calcium and iron), we have limited scientific information about the role and optimum dosages of most of the supplements on the market. Although for many minerals and vitamins, we have basic information about the minimum amounts of essential nutrients that we need to survive or prevent deficiency diseases (the recommended daily allowance, or RDA), we know much less about the optimum doses we need for health and youth. Most of what you learn in health-food stores has not yet been proven. It may prove right, it may prove wrong—we just don't know.
There have been few or no scientific studies on the vast majority of vitamins and supplements on sale in any local health-food store. Most of these supplements are sold without any description of what they are, why they are good for us, or how we should take them. Many of them are unnecessary— and some can even be harmful. Comfrey, for example, long given as a cough suppressant, can actually cause severe and irreversible liver damage—a big price to pay for easing a cough. For most herbs, as well as most minerals and other food supplements, the research has just not been done.
Nutritional supplements—because they are classified as food products and not medicines—aren't regulated by the strict standards governing the sale of prescription and over-the-counter drugs, so manufacturers can sell them in any quantity or combination they want. Nor does the law require that they do any scientific studies to back up their claims, as they would have to do for any new medicinal drugs. There are no industry standards or federal requirements. Different brands of the same supplement might contain very different elements. It is not uncommon to find bottles containing ingredients and even contaminants not listed on the ingredient list. When you do buy vitamins or supplements, make sure you buy them from a large and reputable manufacturer. In addition, do not take any supplement without getting a recommendation from a reputable source.
Another caveat: I advise against taking any supplement 'cocktail' sold at a health-food store, from a vitamin aisle at a store, or from a catalog (many are sent from Canada where the laws are even more lax). These supplement cocktails are mixtures of herbs, vitamins, and minerals. I do not object to 'cocktails' in principle, just in practice. For one thing, they claim to provide everything from 'prostate cancer prevention' to 'menopause ease' to 'muscle building' but often don't even list what they contain—or how much of any one ingredient is included—since the companies that sell them aren't required by law to do so. You—the consumer—could be taking all kinds of things that you don't want. Most of these wonder pills are probably harmless, but we cannot say for sure. I can guarantee that they are not 'wonder' pills. If you are trying to be smart about Age Reduction, don't start taking a pill or cocktail just because a store clerk or infomercial tells you to do so. If you don't know what it is, don't take it.
That said, what do we actually know about vitamins, minerals, and supplements? Which ones should we take? And which ones should we definitely not take? In general, if you eat a balanced and healthy diet, with four servings of fruits and five servings of vegetables a day and plenty of grains, you should get all the nutrients you need. However, that's not always realistic. Most of us have busy lives and hectic schedules, which means that it's not always easy to eat a balanced and nutrient-rich diet.
(REMEMBER THIS BOOK WAS WRITTEN IN 2000. CANADA HAS LAWS THAT ALL INGREDIENTS IN VITAMINS ARE TO BE PUT ON THE BOTTLE LABEL. UNLESS YOU ARE EATING BASICALLY ORGANIC FOODS, TODAY BECAUSE OF POLLUTED FOODS, YOU NEED TO TAKE A GOOD MULTI-VITAMIN/MINERAL SUPPLEMENT, AND MAYBE SOME OTHERS LIKE D3 IF YOU DO NOT GET MUCH SUN - Keith Hunt)
To make up for such inconsistencies, I recommend taking a multivitamin every day, in case you have missed out on a little bit of one mineral or the other. Choose a multivitamin without added iron, and one that has less than 8,000 IU of vitamin A. If you are worried about whether you are eating a balanced diet rich in vitamins and nutrients, talk to your doctor or schedule a session with a clinical nutritionist to review your eating habits and to develop basic dietary guidelines. Vegetarians and others on special or restricted diets should be vigilant to ensure that they are getting the basics.
What other nutrients and vitamins should we be getting? What do they do for us? What shouldn't we take?
Oxidants and Antioxidants: rustproofing your body
One of the biggest trends in vitamins these days is the use of antioxidants, because they purportedly can help prevent the oxidation damage that has been linked to cancers and other types of ageing. It's true: Taking the right amounts of antioxidants can make your RealAge as much as six years younger. Many people, however, wrongly believe that if a little bit of antioxidant is good, a lot is better. Too many antioxidants—especially of the wrong type—can actually cause oxidation damage. My recommendation: antioxidation in moderation. Eat a balanced diet, with four servings of fruits and five to six servings of vegetables a day. Then, each day, take 600 milligrams (mg) or more (up to 2,000 mg) of vitamin C in divided doses separated by at least six hours, plus 400 IU of vitamin E. That should give you all the antioxidation, antiageing protection you need. Here's why.
To understand antioxidants, let's first think about the oxidant, oxygen. We all know that oxygen is necessary for our bodies to function at all. Breathing is fundamental to living. When we breathe, oxygen enters our bloodstream and is transported to our cells. Once it enters our cells, oxygen forms the basis of many of our cells most fundamental processes. You probably learned these facts in elementary school, but what you probably didn't learn was that this same oxygen, in the form of oxygen radicals, can oxidize our tissues. In a sense, it can cause those tissues to rust. Oxygen waste products, called lipo-fuscins, build up in organs like the heart and brain, leaving brown discoloration on the tissues. These spots are signs of ageing. The older you get, the more prevalent they become.
Why? Imagine apples. If you slice an apple and leave it out in the air, it will soon turn brown. Exposed to air, the surface of the apple oxidizes. The process is similar to what happens when oxygen radicals build up in your body. If you were to take that same apple and sprinkle lemon juice on the slices, they would stay white. The apple does not turn brown because lemon juice is full of vitamin C, which works as an antioxidant. Lemon juice stops the oxidation process and keeps the apple from 'rusting.' In your body, antioxidants like vitamin C and vitamin E do the same thing.
Think of your body as an exclusive club. Free radicals are the visitors who crash the scene without an invitation. They are so pesky, the body can't get rid of them without some help. Antioxidants function as a kind of security system, the bouncers. They seek out the roving oxygen radicals and bind to them—a kind of chemical handcuff. Bound together, the free radicals and the antioxidants form an entity that the body can then flush out. As long as you have enough bouncers, free radicals and lipofuscins won't build up in the body.
How does this 'rusting' affect us? Mainly, oxidation ages your arteries. As you get older, your arteries are more likely to become clogged with fat deposits. These clogs contain high levels of oxidized lipids—that is, fats that have been chemically altered through interaction with high levels of free radicals. Therefore, oxidation plays a significant role in the ageing of our arteries. Oxidation affects us in other ways, too.
Oxygen free radicals are an unstable form of oxygen that cause genetic damage. Each cell in your body contains DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) that instructs the cell what to do and when to do it. Every time your cells divide, DNA is copied into the new cell. Oxidation interferes with this process, causing DNA damage. This can lead to cancer arid the premature ageing of solid tissues. It can also damage the immune system, your body's backup security system to ensure that cancer cells don't spread (see Chapter 5 on immune system ageing). Finally, oxidation ages our eyes. It can damage the lenses (promoting cataracts) and the retina. The gradual loss of sight is one of the very first things that can make us feel old.
There are still many gaps in what we know about oxidation, and a lot of what we do know is based on circumstantial evidence. We do know that people with lots of buildup of oxidized fats in their bodies have much higher rates of heart disease and that their bodies appear to age more quickly in other ways, too. The hypothesis is that there is a connection between ageing and oxidation—although we still can't verify it completely. Regardless of the exact reasons why oxidation seems to age us, we know that people who consume the antioxidants vitamin C and vitamin E at the levels I recommend have substantially lower rates of coronary disease, cancer, and other forms of ageing. Let's consider why I recommend that you take vitamin C and vitamin E supplements, but not vitamin A, for antioxidation.
TO BE CONTINUED
I WAS BORN IN 1942. GROWING UP IN THOSE DAYS WAS LESS POLLUTION IN THE AIR AND FOODS, MORE ORGANIC. WE HAD FREE MILK AT SCHOOL WHERE THE CREAM ROSE TO THE TOP, AS IT WILL ORGANICALLY.
DURING MY TEENS AND INTO MY 20s I ATE THREE GOOD BALANCED MEALS A DAY, FRUITS, VEGIES, WHOLE GRAINS, ORGANIC MILK, NUTS, SEEDS OF VARIOUS KINDS, BAKED POTOTO A FEW TIMES A WEEK; AS WELL AS PROTEIN IN EGGS, CHEESE, BEEF, TURKEY [PROTEIN IS IN NUTS AND MILK ALSO].
DURING THOSE YEARS I TOOK PRETTY WELL NO VITAMIN SUPPLEMENTS.
IN MY 30s I STARTED TO TAKE "BEEN POLLEN" DAILY, ONE OF THE MOST COMPLETE FOODS IN NATURE.
WHEN I REACHED 40 MY BODY METABOLISM CHANGED, AND EATING AS ABOVE STARTED TO GAIN WEIGHT. I REDUCED MY DIET, AND STARTED TO TAKE A MULTI-VITAMIN SUPPLEMENT.
AT AGE 60 MY METABOLISM CHANGED YET AGAIN, I HAD TO REDUCE MY DIET FURTHER AND CUT OUT ALTOGETHER CERTAIN FOODS.
I NOW TAKE OTHER VITAMINS AS WELL AS A MULTI-VITAMIN/MINERAL SUPPLEMENT.
SOME I TAKE FOR PROSTATE HEALTH; OTHERS FOR BONE AND JOINT STRENGTH.
I WAS RECENTLY TOLD BY MY DOCTOR TO INCREASE MY D3 TABLET INTAKE, UPON A RECENT BLOOD ANALIS TEST.
YES I TAKE C AND E. YOU CAN NOW BUY ORGANIC MILK [COW OR GOAT].
MY DOCTOR TOLD ME TO TAKE "OATS" AS A CERIAL.
BLUEBERRIES AND CHEA SEEDS ARE KNOWN NOW AS WONDER FOODS, WHICH I EAT.
YOU CAN NOW BUY ANTI-OXIDENT FRUIT DRINKS WITH NO ADDED SUGAR.
FRIED TOMATOES IN VIRGIN OLIVE OIL OR COCONUT OIL, ARE BETTER FOR YOU THAN EATING RAW; THERE IS A CHEMICAL CHANGE WHEN FRYING, PRODUCING A SUBSTANCE VERY GOOD FOR YOU, THAT IS NOT THERE IN THE RAW TOMATO. FOUND THAT OUT FROM DR. MERCOLA RECENTLY.
YOGUT AND SAUERKRAUT IS GOOD FOR YOUR GUT AND INTESTINES.
I HAVE LOOKED AFTER MYSELF IN DIET AND EXERCISE, 7 TO 9 HOURS OF SLEEP DAILY. I SWIM TWICE A WEEK; RIDE MY HORSE 3 TIMES A WEEK; LIFT MY DUMB-BELLS 3 TIMES A WEEK.
I HAVE NO FACE WRINKLES, NO BAGS UNDER MY EYES; A FIRM NECK [FROM DOING NECK EXERCISES].
PEOPLE GUESS MY AGE [WHO DO NOT KNOW] AT 20 YEARS YOUNGER THAN MY BIRTH-CERTIFICATE AGE.
YOU CAN SEE WHAT I LOOK LIKE ON MY FACEBOOK PAGE, WHICH YOU CAN GET TO FROM MY WEBSITE - keithhunt.com