Hand in hand How vitamins help each other

All vitamins have specific jobs in your body. Some have partners. Here are some examples of nutrient cooperation:

I Vitamin E keeps vitamin A from being destroyed in your intestines.

I Vitamin D enables your body to absorb calcium and phosphorus.

I Vitamin C helps folate build proteins.

I Vitamin B1 works in digestive enzyme systems with niacin, pantothenic acid, and magnesium.

Taking vitamins with other vitamins may also improve body levels of nutrients. For example, in 1993, scientists at the National Cancer Institute and the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service gave one group of volunteers a vitamin E capsule plus a multivitamin pill; a second group, vitamin E alone; and a third group, no vitamins at all. The people getting vitamin E plus the multivitamin had the highest amount of vitamin E in their blood — more than twice as high as those who took plain vitamin E capsules.

Sometimes, one vitamin may even alleviate a deficiency caused by the lack of another vitamin. People who do not get enough folate are at risk of a form of anemia in which their red blood cells fail to mature. As soon as they get folate, either by injection or by mouth, they begin making new healthy cells. That's to be expected. What's surprising is the fact that anemia caused by pellagra, the niacin deficiency disease, may also respond to folate treatment.

Isn't nature neat?

Traditionally, the recommended dietary allowances of vitamin A are measured in International Units (IU). However, because retinol is the most efficient source of vitamin A, the modern way to measure the RDA for vitamin A is as retinol equivalents, abbreviated as RE. One microgram (mcg) RE = 3.3 IU. However, many vitamin products still list the RDA for vitamin A in IUs.

Vitamin D

If I say "bones" or "teeth," what nutrient springs most quickly to mind? If you answer calcium, you're giving only a partial picture. True, calcium is essential for hardening teeth and bones. But no matter how much calcium you consume, without vitamin D, your body can't absorb and use the mineral. So vitamin D is vital for building — and holding — strong bones and teeth.

Researchers at the Bone Metabolism Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston say vitamin D may also reduce the risk of tooth loss by preventing the inflammatory response that leads to periodontal disease, a condition that destroys the thin tissue (ligaments) that connects the teeth to the surrounding jawbone. Finally, a report in the February 2oo6 issue of The American Journal of Public Health suggests that taking 1,ooo international units (IU) of vitamin D a day may cut in half a person's risk of developing some forms of cancer, including cancer of the colon, breast, or ovaries.

Vitamin D comes in three forms: calciferol, cholecalciferol, and ergocalciferol. Calciferol occurs naturally in fish oils and egg yolk. In the United States, it's added to margarines and milk. Cholecalciferol is created when sunlight hits your skin and ultraviolet rays react with steroid chemicals in body fat just underneath. Ergocalciferol is synthesized in plants exposed to sunlight. Cholecalciferol and ergocalciferol justify vitamin D's nickname: the Sunshine Vitamin.

The RDA for vitamin D is measured either in International Units (IUs) or micro-grams (mcg) of cholecalciferol: 1o mcg cholecalciferol = 4oo IU vitamin D.

Vitamin E

Every animal, including you, needs vitamin E to maintain a healthy reproductive system, nerves, and muscles. You get vitamin E from tocopherols and tocotrienols, two families of naturally occurring chemicals in vegetable oils, nuts, whole grains, and green leafy vegetables — your best natural sources of vitamin E.

Tocopherols, the more important source, have two sterling characteristics: They're anticoagulants and antioxidants that reduce blood's ability to clot, thus reducing the risk of clot-related stroke and heart attack. Antioxidants prevent free radicals (incomplete pieces of molecules) from hooking up with other molecules or fragments of molecules to form toxic substances that can attack tissues in your body. In fact, nutrition scientists at Purdue University released a study showing that vitamin E promotes bone growth by stopping free radicals from reacting with polyunsaturated fatty acids (see Chapter 7 for information on fats) to create molecules that interfere with the formation of new bone cells.

But some claims about E's heart health benefits are now considered iffy. True, a recent clinical trial at Cambridge University in England showed that taking 8oo IU (International Units) of vitamin E, two times the RDA, may reduce the risk of nonfatal heart attacks for people who already have heart disease. And, yes, the federal Women's Health Study found that older women taking 6oo IU vitamin E per day had a lower risk of heart attack and a lower risk of death from heart disease. But the Heart Outcomes Prevention Evaluation (HOPE) study showed no such benefits. In fact, people taking 4oo IU per day vitamin E were more likely to develop heart failure. No one (and no study) has found similar problems among those taking less vitamin E, say 1oo IU/day. Whew.

The best sources of vitamin E are vegetables, oils, nuts, and seeds. The RDA is expressed as milligrams a-tocopherol equivalents (abbreviated as a-TE).

Vitamin K

Vitamin K is a group of chemicals that your body uses to make specialized proteins found in blood plasma (the clear fluid in blood), such as prothrom-bin, the protein chiefly responsible for blood clotting. You also need vitamin K to make bone and kidney tissues. Like vitamin D, vitamin K is essential for healthy bones. Vitamin D increases calcium absorption; vitamin K activates at least three different proteins that take part in forming new bone cells. For example, a report on 888 men and women from the long-running Framingham (Massachusetts) Heart Study shows that those who consumed the least vitamin K each day had the highest incidence of broken bones. The same was true for a 1999 analysis of data from the Nurses' Health Study.

Vitamin K is found in dark green leafy vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, kale, lettuce, spinach, and turnip greens), cheese, liver, cereals, and fruits, but most of what you need comes from resident colonies of friendly bacteria in your intestines, an assembly line of busy bugs churning out the vitamin day and night.

10 Ways To Fight Off Cancer

10 Ways To Fight Off Cancer

Learning About 10 Ways Fight Off Cancer Can Have Amazing Benefits For Your Life The Best Tips On How To Keep This Killer At Bay Discovering that you or a loved one has cancer can be utterly terrifying. All the same, once you comprehend the causes of cancer and learn how to reverse those causes, you or your loved one may have more than a fighting chance of beating out cancer.

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment