With so much information in the news today about nutrition, what is one to believe?
Eat healthy food, Take your vitamins, fats, calories. People are spending a lot of money on food supplements, powders, potions, and vitamin and mineral supplements.
The best answer has been and remains today – is to eat a balanced diet from the basic groups in the amounts recommended – ChooseMYPlate.gov.
We are all well aware that inadequate intake of nutrients can lead to deficiency problems. In our effort to avoid deficiency problems, many of us have turned to supplements. Can too much also be a problem and the answer, with many nutrients is Yes!
We know that too much carbohydrate, protein and/or fat can cause overweight. But there can also be other problems.
Too much protein can cause stress on the kidneys and dehydration.
Excess vitamin B6 can cause nerve problems,
Excess Niacin can cause flushing
Excess Vitamin C can cause kidney stones,
Excess folic acid may mask a B12 deficiency, especially in people over 50.
Excess Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in body tissue and can accumulate to dangerous levels. Too much Vitamin A can lead to birth defects, excess Vitamin E may increase the risk of hemorrhaging. Excess Vitamin K can lessen or reverse the effect of blood thinner medicines and prevent normal blood clotting.
Excess intake of minerals can also be problematic.
Excess Selenium can cause reversible balding and brittle nails and give a garlic odor to the breath and cause intestinal distress, weakness and slowed mental functioning.
Excess potassium can cause an irregular heart beat.
Excess Zinc can cause gastrointestinal irritation (upset stomach), diarrhea and nausea and can cause copper deficiency.
Excess calcium intake can interfere with kidney function, cause kidney stones and constipation and interfere with the absorption of iron and zinc.
Excess doses of antioxidants can turn into pro-oxidants.
Natural foods contain components that interact in highly complex ways to benefit ones overall health. We need adequate vitamins and minerals and all nutrients to function optimally, but extra vitamins and minerals do not give a competitive edge.
Through much research the government has established the Recommended Daily Dietary Allowances (RDA) –the amount per day of each nutrient, that an individual should consume to maintain adequate health and the Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL). The Tolerable Upper Level is the highest level of a daily nutrient intake that is likely to pose no health risks. Above the UL there is potential for increased risk.
Many persons believe that that our food supply is not nutritionally adequate and that they should take extra vitamins and minerals to supplement their diets. The various nutrients from natural foods that we ingest perform biochemical reactions in the body that supply energy, growth and the needed chemical reactions for the body to function. These nutrients are found in the plants we eat and are created by the plants themselves. Minerals are natural substances that plants absorb from the soil. If the soil is deficient in a needed mineral, the plant fails to thrive or yields small fruits and vegetables with a poor appearance. Depleted soil does not yield depleted plants; depleted soil produces no plants. Thus all tomatoes or apples or whatever have the same nutrient content.
Other’s believe that they need additional nutrients because they are very active, they exercise daily or are in athletics. All individuals need adequate vitamins and minerals to function optimally but extra (beyond the recommended amount) vitamins and minerals does not give a competitive edge. Vitamin supplements do not enhance performance, increase strength or endurance, provide additional energy, or build muscle in healthy active people. Athletic persons and persons who exercise more also eat more and if eating a balanced diet, they do consume adequate nutrients to do their activity. Eating 1200 calories per day of “natural” foods will supply the recommended daily allowance of most nutrients for most individuals. (Deficiencies are more likely to occur in sedentary persons who eat very little, such as elderly persons who eat very little and thus do not consume their daily recommended allowances of all nutrients. Also persons with anorexia or who eat an inadequate vegetarian diet may not consume all needed nutrients.) Vitamin and mineral deficiencies do not develop overnight but rather over months or years.
Thus consumption of additional supplements, protein enhancers, energy bars, vitamin and minerals do not enhance activity and health but may be dangerous. In addition, many foods today are fortified with additional nutrients. Breads, milk, cereals, etc. have extra vitamins and minerals added. The combination of eating whole foods, fortified foods and supplements raises safety concerns. Eating fortified foods while taking supplements can cause a person’s diet to exceed the safe upper limits and potentially lead to a toxic buildup.
There are some times when engineered sports drinks and food bars may be of help such as for high-level endurance cyclists, marathoners, triathletes, and persons who exercise intensely and who may have a sensitive stomach but these are best taken under the guidance of a Registered Dietitian. Each person’s body reacts differently and the use of supplemental products depends on the type of sport or activity and the timing to consume – several hours prior to the activity or a couple hours or immediately or during – speak with a trained Registered Dietitian. The best rule is eating natural foods that are as close to the natural form as possible to improve and maintain health, prevent disease, optimize healing and enhance performance.
However if one decides to take a supplement, know the tolerable upper limit of nutrients and check labels and add in the content found in natural foods and fortified foods that one is also eating to be certain you are not exceeding a safe intake of nutrients.