A Crash Course On Vitamins & Minerals
The body needs thirteen vitamins and eighteen minerals to maintain good health. Small amounts of these vitamins and minerals are essential to the body's biochemical processes. These vitamins help the body make energy out of food and manufacture hormones, blood cells and nervous system chemicals.
The body obtains almost all of its vitamins and minerals through the food we eat. The exceptions are Vitamin D, B5 and B7. Vitamin D and B5 can be produced through exposure to sunlight and absorption through the skin. A mere ten minutes of midday sun produces at least half of what's required each day. The other half comes from eating fatty fish such as salmon or tuna or from dairy products. B7 is produced by normal intestinal bacteria and through foods.
Minerals are as essential to the body as vitamins. Minerals originate in soil and water and are found in all plants and animals. The major or macro minerals, the ones needed in large quantities by the body include calcium, phosphorus and magnesium. Trace or micro minerals are needed in small amounts. These include iron, fluoride, selenium and zinc.
The study of vitamins and minerals and how much of each our bodies require is ongoing. Researchers constantly recalculate exactly how much is best as they learn more about how vitamins and minerals effect health and physiological function. Because of the ongoing research, the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) of vitamins and minerals are reviewed and changed on a regular basis by the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences.
Up to 80% of American households purchase vitamin supplements. Despite their widespread use, debate continues about the value of vitamins and other dietary supplements. Studies have indicated that the required nutrients are best obtained from a balanced diet. According to these studies, only certain groups of people really need to take supplements, such as: pregnant women, young children, alcoholics, people with diseases that inhibit absorption of nutrients, post menopausal women trying to prevent osteoporosis, and people whose diets do not provide the necessary nutrients.
While the studies recommending against supplements for the average person may be right, they assume that we eat a balanced diet. Recent studies have shown that less than 1/3 of adults eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Older people are also less likely to consume enough calories to meet their daily nutrient requirements. People who fall into these categories need supplements to ensure they are getting the vitamins and minerals they need. Supplements can also help people with special needs, such as those trying to lose weight or improve athletic performance.
The vitamin rack at your local store is littered with all sorts of bottles and packages promising to cure depression, sleep disorders, cancer, indigestion, arthritis or obesity. Some claim to fight aging, give you extra energy, eliminate toxins or rejuvenate the skin. Be careful, these promises are rarely legitimate.
In 1994, Congress removed dietary and nutritional supplements from review by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They are no longer regulated. They aren't evaluated for safety or purity or whether they actually do what they say they do. Manufacturers of these items are not required to list ingredients in their advertisements. You may not know what you are getting. Be very careful.