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Supplementing for Optimal Health: When ‘Getting By’ Isn’t Enough

I remember when I took my first baby steps into the world of dietary supplements. I was overwhelmed! My knowledge level was at ground zero (or less) ― and to say I had a lot to learn is at best an understatement.

Thankfully, I worked closely with a wonderful restorative doctor, Dr. Sergey Dzugan, who had the patience to explain things and answer my many questions. He is still my mentor today.

Among all that I learned about supplements, the following three lessons stand out as really important for anyone interested in exploring how vitamins and minerals can exponentially improve their health and quality of life.

How Much Is Enough?

My supplement education began with understanding that I had to let go of some erroneous preconceptions.

I had always thought that if my vitamin and mineral levels measured at the Reference Intake (RI) (or, in the U.S., the Recommended Daily Allowance, or RDA) levels, then all was well. I must be healthy!

What I learned is that those numbers are averages. They don’t apply to everyone.

But more importantly, while those levels might technically prevent a deficiency, they aren’t sufficient. It is well known in the ‘world of restorative medicine’ that they are not enough to optimize cellular function and inadequate levels mean you’re always operating at less than your best.

Moreover, sub-optimal vitamin and mineral levels that persist over a long period of time can lead to diseases like cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, depression and premature death. All those diseases we so dread. Diseases associated with old age.

These are diseases that, with optimal levels of vitamins and minerals, we can avoid.

Did you know, for example, that if you go for 30 to 40 years without enough folate for optimal function, your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease will double? It’s a great incentive for folic acid (folate) supplementation.

You can blame a lot of long-term degeneration on nutrient-poor diets ― diets high in carbs, sugar, and processed foods. But even the supposed ‘good’ food we get is all too often inadequate to meet our nutrient needs. Grocery stores are filled with GMO (genetically modified organism) foods . . . foods grown in nutrient-depleted soil . . . foods produced by plants sprayed with poisonous pesticides and other toxic chemicals.

Some foods fail to give us needed nutrients, while daily exposure to environmental toxins, as well as certain drugs, deplete our bodies of what essential nutrients we already have.

It’s up to us to restore nutrients up to our level of need.

LESSON 1: Most people today, despite test results saying they’re within ‘normal’ range, don’t get all the nutrients they need from food. Research tells us they’re likely to be deficient in one or more vitamins. Consequently, almost everyone needs to supplement in order to build a strong foundation for lifelong health.

Which Supplement to Buy?

Another important thing I learned is that you can’t assume just any supplement will provide your body with the raw materials it needs to thrive. But which ones to buy?

Confronted with a massive wall of shelved vitamins, minerals and herbs, how can you tell which ones may truly be judged excellent? How can you avoid wasting your money on supplements that don’t help you? Or worse, cause harm?

It feels like walking through a minefield! The choices are seemingly endless, and there’s almost no government regulation to ensure product quality, safety and efficacy.

In the UK, most supplements are regulated not as drugs but as foods by the Food Standards Agency and the Department of Health (FSADH). They’re regulated as a medicine only if the manufacturer makes a medical claim ― in other words, after it has caused harm. The same is true in the US.

Before a supplement company brings a product to market, it is not required to:

  • Do clinical studies to verify that it does what it’s claimed to do
  • Test the product to verify that it’s safe
  • Meet standards of purity for ingredients
  • Ensure that labels accurately reflect the product’s actual contents

When supplements randomly taken from the shelves of stores have been tested for quality and purity, many labels have proved shockingly deceptive.

In one US study, the New York State attorney general’s office tested dietary supplements from four major retailers. Around 80% of the samples tested didn’t contain so much as a trace of the herbs listed on the label. Many consisted mostly of cheap fillers ― powdered rice, vegetables and houseplants ― that weren’t even listed on the label, and one contained powdered wheat, to which many people are allergic, even though its label said the product was wheat- and gluten-free.

Charges filed included mislabeling, contamination and false advertising.

The sad thing is, this wasn’t just a one-off. Because quality and safety regulations are lax to non-existent, this kind of deception is common in both the US and the UK. In fact, studies in the UK indicate that many supplements are contaminated with banned and often dangerous substances. Unfortunately, low price often equates to low quality.

LESSON 2: Buyer beware.

How Do You Know You’re Really Getting the Goods?

This is your first step towards securing your health . . .helping yourself to perform at your peak and prevent disease.

The best advice I can share is to buy from a reputable source ― a source that has a thorough knowledge of supplements, knows the importance of adequate active ingredients and understands their role in proactively achieving optimal health.

In the meantime, bear in mind that most women need to take:

  • A high-quality multivitamin
  • Magnesium
  • Zinc
  • Vitamin D3
  • Omega3 fatty acids
  • Probiotics

The market is overrun with poor-quality products, so please be aware that it is important to know what you are looking for. Look for supplements supported by:

  • Basic science and clinical trials
  • Credible 3rd-party analysis and testing
  • Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP)
  • Commitment to content integrity (freedom from contaminants, preservatives and chemical agents commonly found in low-quality products)

LESSON 3: Working with an experienced restorative medicine doctor, buy supplements from companies that are backed by science and adhere to good manufacturing processes.

At Menopause Woman, we carry only products that meet the most exacting standards of purity. All our supplements observe GMP guidelines, which is your guarantee that they are consistently controlled and produced according to quality standards. They also comply with the EU Supplement Directive, adopted in 2002.

All our supplements have a long record of safety and efficacy. You can be assured that our products are made with ingredients sourced to meet the most stringent qualifications for quality, satisfy your highest expectations and deliver reliable, scientifically proven support for your health.

SOURCES:

  • Dr. Mark Hyman Takes the Guesswork Out of Vitamin Supplements. The Daniel Plan.
  • How to Choose a Quality Vitamin Supplement. Black Bear Naturopathic clinic, PC.
  • O’Connor, A. New York Attorney General Targets Supplements at Major Retailers. New York Times. February 3, 2015
  • Safety of contaminated vitamins and nutritional supplements can’t be left to consumers. The Conversation. May 5, 2015.
  • 10 surprising dangers of vitamins and supplements. Consumer Reports magazine. Sept. 2012.
  • Warner, B. To Trust or Not to Trust? What’s in Your Supplements? HealthyBalanceMD.com.

Telomeres: How to Help Prevent Them from Shortening

In my previous blog, I discussed the importance of telomeres to the ageing process and our bodies. Naturally, telomere length, and their impressive health benefits are now gathering more and more interest… the race is on! How do we preserve telomere length in normal cells, which in turn, sustain healthy cellular youth and functionality?

The Answer? Vitamin Supplementation

Over the last few years, scientists have gathered a tremendous and convincing amount of evidence, demonstrating that one way of supporting telomere health and length is to include a daily regime of certain vitamins in adequate amounts including, B vitamins (including vitamin B12, vitamin B6, and folic acid), vitamin D3, vitamin C, and vitamin E (in particular Gamma-tocotrienol which prevent, and may even reverse telomere shortening), and the vegetable carotenoids, such as lutein and zeaxanthin, high levels of which have been seen to promote significantly longer telomeres.

Fish oils have also demonstrated they can significantly impact telomere length. One study showed that by reducing blood levels of omega-6 fats, and increasing omega-3s (from fish oil), the outcome was increased telomere length. This was due to a reduction of inflammatory molecules (cytokines) and oxidative stress, which was brought on by higher levels of omega-3s in relation to the pro-inflammatory omega-6s. There is a specific ratio between omega-6s and omega-3s that has to adhered to, to help prevent excess inflammation and for us to remain healthy. It is important to have both these omegas present in the body, so long as they are in the correct ratios.

An Important Note for Women

Women who consume a diet lacking in antioxidants tend to have shorter telomeres and present a moderate risk of developing breast cancer. On the other hand, a diet rich in antioxidants such as vitamin E, vitamin C, and beta-carotene have been linked to longer telomeres and a lower risk of breast cancer.

I mentioned previously about hormone deficiencies and decline, and the influence they have on the shortening of telomeres. Hormones decline with age, but supplementing with bioidentical hormones can aid telomere length. Oestrogen – 17 beta oestradiol – and testosterone activate telomerase which plays a key role in telomere length. However, estrogen blockers such as those given to women who have been found to have cancer, turn off or inhibit telomerase, as do androgen (synthetic male hormone) blockers.

So to help maintain telomere length… remember to take your antioxidants and vitamins, and for an even better outcome… bioidentical hormones as well!

References

Zhu H, Guo D, Li K, et al. Increased telomerase activity and vitamin D supplementation in overweight African Americans. Int J Obes (Lond). 2012;36(6):805-9.

Chiappori AA, Kolevska T, Spigel DR, et al. A randomized phase II study of the telomerase inhibitor imetelstat as maintenance therapy for advanced non-small-cell lung cancer. Ann Oncol 2015;26(2)354-62.

Pusceddu I, Herrmann M, Kirsch SH, et al. One-carbon metabolites and telomere length in a prospective and randomized study of B- and/or D-vitamin supplementation. Eur J Nutr. 2016.

Xu Q, Parks CG, DeRoo LA, et al. Multivitamin use and telomere length in women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009;89(6):1857-63.

Shin C, Baik I. Leukocyte Telomere Length is Associated With Serum Vitamin B12 and Homocysteine Levels in Older Adults With the Presence of Systemic Inflammation. Clin Nutr Res. 2016;5(1):7-14.

Min KB, Min JY. Association between leukocyte telomere length and serum carotenoid in US adults. Eur J Nutr. 2016.

Jennings BJ, Ozanne SE, Dorling MW, Hales CN. Early growth determines longevity in male rats and may be related to telomere shortening in the kidney. FEBS Lett. 1999 Apr 1; 448(1):4-8.

Jennings BJ, Ozanne SE, Hales CN. Nutritional, oxidative damage, telomere shortening,  and cellular senescence: individual or connected agents of aging? Jennings BJ, Ozanne SE, Hales CN. Mol Genet Metab. 2000 Sep-Oct; 71(1-2):32-42.

Xiong S, Patrushev N, Forouzandeh F, et al. PGC-1alpha Modulates Telomere Function and DNA Damage in Protecting against Aging-Related Chronic Diseases. Cell Rep. 2015;12(9):1391-9.

Pusceddu I, Farrell CJ, Di Pierro AM, et al. The role of telomeres and vitamin D in cellular aging and age-related diseases. Clin Chem Lab Med. 2015;53(11):1661-78.

Zhang D, Sun X, Liu J, et al. Homocysteine accelerates senescence of endothelial cells via DNA hypomethylation of human telomerase reverse transcriptase. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2015;35(1):71-8.

Harley CB, Liu W, Flom PL, et al. A natural product telomerase activator as part of a health maintenance program: metabolic and cardiovascular response. Rejuvenation Res. 2013;16(5):386-95.

Borras M, Panizo S, Sarro F, et al. Assessment of the potential role of active vitamin D treatment in telomere length: a case-control study in hemodialysis patients. Clin Ther. 2012;34(4):849-56.

Makpol S, Zainuddin A, Rahim NA, et al. Alpha-tocopherol modulates hydrogen peroxide-induced DNA damage and telomere shortening of human skin fibroblasts derived from differently aged individuals. Planta Med. 2010;76(9):869-75.

Tanaka Y, Moritoh Y, Miwa N. Age-dependent telomere-shortening is repressed by phosphorylated alpha-tocopherol together with cellular longevity and intracellular oxidative-stress reduction in human brain microvascular endotheliocytes. J Cell Biochem. 2007;102(3):689-703.

Makpol S, Abidin AZ, Sairin K, et al. gamma-Tocotrienol prevents oxidative stress-induced telomere shortening in human fibroblasts derived from different aged individuals. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2010;3(1):35-43.

Sen A, Marsche G, Freudenberger P, et al. Association between higher plasma lutein, zeaxanthin, and vitamin C concentrations and longer telomere length: results of the Austrian Stroke Prevention Study. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2014;62(2):222-9.

Kiecolt-Glaser JK, Epel ES, Belury MA, et al. Omega-3 fatty acids, oxidative stress, and leukocyte telomere length: A randomized controlled trial. Brain Behav Immun. 2013;28:16-24.

Gonzalez-Suarez I, Redwood AB, Grotsky DA, et al. A new pathway that regulates 53BP1 stability implicates cathepsin L and vitamin D in DNA repair. Embo j. 2011;30(16):3383-96.

Liu JJ, Prescott J, Giovannucci E, et al. Plasma vitamin D biomarkers and leukocyte telomere length. Am J Epidemiol. 2013;177(12):1411-7.

Kim YY, Ku SY, Huh Y, et al. Anti-aging effects of vitamin C on human pluripotent stem cell derived cardiomyocytes. Age (Dordr). 2013;35(5):1545-57.

Li Y, Zhang W, Chang L, et al. Vitamin C alleviates aging defects in a stem cell model for Werner syndrome. Protein Cell. 2016;7(7):478-88.

Farzaneh-Far R, Lin Jue, Espel ES, Harris WS, Blackburn EH, et al. Association of Marine Omega-3 Fatty Acid Levels With Telomeric Aging in Patients With Coronary Heart Disease. Jama 2010 Jan 20;303(3):250.

Masood A. Shammas. Telomeres, Lifestyle, Cancer and Aging. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2011 Jan; 14(1): 28–34.

Jing Shen, Gammon MD, Terry MB, Qiao Wang, et al. Telomere length, oxidative damage, antioxidants and Breast cancer risk. Int J Cancer. 2009 Apr 1;124(7):1637-43.

Calado RT, Yewdell WT, WilersonKL, Regal JA, et al. Sex hormones, acting on the TERT gene, increase telomerase activity in human primary hematopoietic cells. Blood 2009 Sep 10;114(11):2236-2243.

Should we take vitamin supplements?

Some of the many questions women ask me are, should we take vitamins and other nutrients or not? In what amounts should we take them, which supplements are the most effective and which vitamins or nutrients should we take for a specific illness or chronic disease?

Yes, admittedly, it can be very confusing, especially as there are so many on the marketplace… some pure and some not so pure, but that is for another discussion!

The guidelines

Answering this question is important to our health and longevity – but as we know, there are so many differing viewpoints regarding nutrition and nutritional supplements, it is difficult to know in which direction to move. The RDA, recommended daily allowance, and the RDI, reference daily intake, were developed so they could be used as a guideline for our daily intake of vitamins and nutrients. However, these dietary recommendations are only suggestions, which are often rigidly followed by well-intentioned people.

Unfortunately, these guidelines are way below the levels that restorative medicine would call sufficient (optimal) to help people achieve optimal health – which is its goal. Also, the RDA and RDI recommendations do not consider that every individual is different and therefore their requirements for vitamins, mineral, and other nutrients will be different. T0 enable them to gain full health benefits, nutritional intake needs to be considered.

Of course, stress, age, lifestyle, genetics, medications, soil depletion, vitamin interaction, and whether there is a need for more antioxidants, also all need to be considered. Just because your healthy neighbour or friend is following a certain nutritional plan doesn’t mean that it will work for you.

What does your body need?

It is imperative to understand what the body needs. Only 20 per cent of disease is inherited and 80 per cent is the environment in which we place our body. It is what we personally do to our body that counts. Our health and lifestyle is basically based on lifestyle, environment and nutrition. It is these factors that have a huge influence on the number of years spent in good health. Many studies demonstrate that people with better health habits and nutritional diet survive much longer and with a lesser degree of disability at the end of life.

The Journal of the American Medical Association stated,

“Sub optimal vitamin states are associated with many chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, cancer and osteoporosis. It is important for physicians to identify patients with poor nutrition or other reasons for increased vitamin needs.” Going onto say, “Most people do not consume optimal amounts of all vitamins by diet alone… it appears prudent for all adults to take vitamin supplements.”

What about nutrients from healthy eating?

There are various reasons why it is almost impossible to get all nutrients we need from food:

  • most soil is now depleted of many important minerals, such as magnesium and zinc.
  • selenium, a trace mineral, is also deplete in some areas but can be found in overabundance in other areas. Selenium is good for health in small amounts but is toxic in large amounts – watch out!
  • when fruit and vegetables are not consumed after they are picked, they immediately lose their nutritional value.
  • cold storage continues to destroy nutritional value – grapes lose up to 30 percent of their B vitamins, by the time they arrive at the supermarket. Tangerines that are stored for eight weeks lose more than half their vitamin C.
  • over cooking – the longer you cook fruits and vegetables, the less nutrients there will be left. It is always better to lightly steam them or eat them raw, and if possible as soon as they are picked.
  • processing foods (the foods that most of us eat today) destroy any nutritional value it may have after it has been picked. Food can be processed, blanched, canned, sterilized and frozen – all these mechanisms decrease nutritional value. The milling of grains removes much of its fiber and twenty-six essential nutrients.

In today’s modern society the intake of supplements is fundamental to good health – but make sure you get the right supplements in the right amounts, and clean, pure supplements (no chalk, etc!)

Restorative medicine can design a nutritional programme just for you! Right amounts, clean, pure just for you!