imyeyes-banner-sqIn My EyesBy Edward B. Antonio

Do we need food supplements, vitamins these COVID days?

Now that we are trapped in these COVID-19 days, one of the sound pieces of advice is to take in Vitamin C and other food supplements to boost the immune system.

One of my former colleagues in a private school was said to be taking in high doses of Vitamin E before she died. My good friend-janitor, Mang Osmen, (who died of liver diseases due to heavy drinking) once said that this colleague-teacher was taking in a branded Vitamin E capsule.

Pagpapaubing kano,” he said.

But this teacher-colleague died (in her 40s) of a swollen mouth. Some said the beautiful (she was single) teacher died of gamud. I doubted she died of gamud. I later learned she died of cancer of the mouth, probably from the various cosmetics she applied on ther face.

I, myself, have been hooked with a lot of vitamins and food supplements like fish and garlic oil, turmeric and Vitamin C until I found out I’ve been spending a lot lately.

But do these food supplements really work, fellas?

Gabriela Silang General Hospital Chief Dr. Trina Talaga said she is not a big fan of food supplement.

“The best way to get them is by consuming a lot of fruits and vegetable,” she said.

One intriguing question in taking in multivitamins is: Do I need to take a daily multivitamin if I eat healthy?

Health doctors say that we use multivitamins to supplement what we might be missing from our diets. As it turns out, knowing our diet limitations is the best step to figuring out if we need a multivitamin.

Dr. Krista Lennox says: “Consumption of a wide variety of colorful, nutritious food is the best way to maintain health and prevent chronic disease. With that being said, it is important to note that most people do not meet the recommended amount of nutrients in their diet. Through increased intake of fruits and vegetables, low fat dairy products, whole grains and fortified foods we can help ensure the quality of our diet to meet or nutritional needs.

Dr. David Parr agrees: “Probably not, but maybe. If you eat a healthy diet that contains a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy you likely get adequate levels of vitamins and minerals.”

Not surprisingly, many people don’t consume sufficient amounts of the nutrients that are easily lost during the processing of food. Vitamin D deficiency is rampant. The latest research shows that current recommendations for 600 International Units a day are too low. Part of the problem is that recommendations are made solely on vitamin D’s role in bone health, while newer research takes into consideration the multitude of functions vitamin D is necessary for.

If you avoid certain types of foods, supplements might help fill in the blanks of your diet, Dr. Andy Bellati recommends a few good supplements: Vitamin B12 supplements are recommended for people who avoid animal products. For individuals who do not normally eat fish or sea vegetables (two sources of DHA and EPA Omega-3 fatty acids), they best supplement is fish oil.

Dr. Parr notes that it’s difficult to self-assess and even though supplements can work to battle deficiency, the purpose stops there because there aren’t added benefits from taking more than your daily allowance. Given the nature of the typical western diet, people really may not be getting enough essential nutrients like vitamins and minerals. In these cases, a supplement would be advised.

Belatti adds that the main goal for people should be to improve their overall diet as opposed to relying on supplements. Technically, it’s smart to supplement if your diet is not high in nutrients.

Are there negative effects from taking too many vitamins?

The fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the liver and fatty tissues and aren’t needed typically on a daily basis. The water-soluble vitamins make a quick exit in your urine if you take too much, but the fat-soluble vitamins hole up as long as they can. Dr. Parr further explains that toxicity can result from very high doses and is most common with the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, K.

Krista Lennox adds: When it comes to vitamins, more is not always better. According to a recent study, the nutrients most likely to exceed the tolerable upper intake levels are iron, zinc, vitamin A and niacin.

Can vitamins improve athletic performance?

Dr. Parr doesn’t think so: In theory, some vitamins and minerals could improve exercise performance or health, but research into vitamin/mineral supplementation tends to show a lack of positive effect. Here are three examples: 1) Iron is an essential component in oxygen transport in the blood and muscle. Iron deficiency can impair exercise performance by lowering oxygen delivery to the muscle, an essential step in producing energy for muscular activity. In iron deficiency cases, an iron supplement can reverse the deficiency and restore exercise performance. But taking an iron supplement when you have normal iron levels would not improve performance. In fact, excess iron intake can cause liver damage.

2) Certain vitamin supplements have no effect at reducing the risk of chronic diseases, like heart disease or cancer. In particular, high doses of vitamins A, C, E and the mineral selenium (all antioxidants) don’t appear to lower the risk of chronic diseases and may actually increase the risk of death.

3) Deficiencies of certain nutrients can have a negative effect on immune function, so eating a balanced diet is essential. That said, there is no support for “boosting” the immune system by taking high doses of vitamins, minerals or other supplements, despite the claims made by supplement companies. Supplement manufacturers are not required to prove their products have any beneficial effects, so the majority of nutritional supplements have not undergone appropriate testing.

Is there a difference between a supplement and the vitamins I we get in food?

Bellati says that when Vitamin E is isolated, for example, it does not work as efficiently as it does within its original food matrix. Foods high in vitamin E (mainly nuts and seeds) contain compounds that interact with vitamin E in such a way that allows it to operate efficiently. Overdosing on vitamins isn’t worth much either, so if you’re going to go the multivitamin route, make sure it’s not providing too much of any fat-soluble vitamins or alternately, consider supplementing with just the specific mineral and vitamins you need based on your diet.

So, do we need to take in a lot of vitamins and food supplements in these pandemic days, fellas?

The choice is yours.