{STEP 2.5} Maximize Vitamin Benefits

Vitamin benefits are one of the most controversial topics in nutrition science today.  Hundreds of volumes have been published on a single vitamin.   Many propose theories of augmented health.  These claims often involve following particular supplementation regiments to alleviate, or even outright cure, certain conditions.

From a scientific perspective, vitamins are a complex group of essential nutrients and research into the unknown is still needed.  It is a matter of fact that vitamins were only discovered in the past century, which was initially spurred by their absence in the human diet.  

However, the speculative nature of vitamin benefits drives an industry worth approximately 27 billion dollars annually in the United States alone.  As a whole, the only vitamin benefits all nutrition professionals agree on are the prevention of various diseases caused by deficiencies of individual vitamins. 

These diseases affect millions of people worldwide.  We rarely talk about vitamins in this way because the presence of these diseases is typically isolated to impoverished and developing countries.In the modern diet, it is much more constructive to focus on what vitamins can do to positively affect our health.

Up until recently, much research has focused on studying individual vitamins and their potential effects on a particular condition.  Findings from published articles are often exploited for profit and, in the process, has created a lot of misinformation among the general public.

The main problem with the marketing of these claims is that they are often based on a single study that was either poor-quality or inconsistent methodology, or both.  Supplement claims are not regulated and therefore, the language can be suggestive of a health benefit when the findings may have been coincidental or only loosely associated.  

However, vitamins are beginning to be studied more for how they contribute to the healthy of our body collectively.  One example that has been well-researched is a risk indicator of cardiovascular disease events.  Homocysteine is a non-essential amino acid that was brought to the attention of the medical community by a Harvard medical doctor.

Independent research has shown a significant association between elevated homocysteine levels in our bodies and increased occurrence of cardiovascular disease and plaque build up in the arteries (arteriosclerosis).  Patients studied saw a nearly 60% reduction in homocysteine levels when introduced with a B-vitamin combination of folic acid, B6, and B12.

Patients in the other groups supplemented only one of those three same vitamins had drastically inferior results.  There were improvements, but the reduction was over 40 percentage points less.  In conjunction, these vitamins worked collaboratively to produce a much more effective result.

This synergy is being considered a key factor moving forward in medical research and deriving vitamin benefits.

Do the Pros Outweigh the Cons?

Traditional nutritionists argue there is little or no-added benefit to vitamin intakes above general guidelines set forth by global health organizations and national governments.  Many also believe that supplementation is unnecessary because all of needs can be met with diet alone.

Strict adherence to an all-inclusive meal plan, acceptable vitamin intakes can be met through diet alone.  With respect to nutritionists with this view, this is definitively something we can all strive to achieve.  Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of people will be unable to consistently meet even the daily minimum intakes in all of the vitamins.  

In addition, from farm to table there are external factors that can alter the micronutrient content of foods.

Any type of processing or refinement drastically reduces vitamins and minerals.  While whole foods don't have this same problem, modern farming practices have recently been under scrutiny for contributing to increasing poor soil quality.  Degradation of soil is characterized by a lower content of nutrients which, in turn, could mean plants with less micronutrients to pass onto us.

Lastly, the use of heat in home cooking reduced the levels of vitamins.  Unfortunately, vitamins are particularly fragile to heat of any kind.

With these considerations in mind along with the relatively low-risk for vitamin toxicity, a multi-vitamin can act as your daily insurance policy.  It can ensure that your body reaps the collective synergy and should be considered part of your healthy diet plan.

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Action Steps 
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The following articles will help you set guidelines and craft your plan.

  1. Daily Food Guide for Wellness of Body and Mind

  2. Protein in Diet should Always be High Quality

  3. Healthy Diet Fats are Real!

  4. A Guide to the Glycemic Load

  5. The Benefits of Vitamins: The Facts and the Fiction

  6. Water Nutrition: 3 out of 4 People Don't Drink Enough

**As always, feel free to use the navigation below to backtrack and get an overview of Healthy Diet Mentor and our plan to get you on your way to a lifelong healthy diet.

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