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Vitamin & Mineral Supplements – A Necessity in the Modern World

There is increasing confusion today as to whether vitamin and mineral supplements are really necessary if we are eating a good diet. If this is the case, why is it that degenerative diseases such as cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s disease are on the rise? In fact, a report published by the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2002 concluded “Inadequate intake of several vitamins has been linked to chronic diseases, including coronary heart disease, cancer and osteoporosis.”
In this article we explore reasons why supplementation may be required to ensure a long and healthy life.
Increased Pollution Levels
Modern agriculture and farming techniques have been accompanied by ever increasing levels of pesticides, fertilizers and antibiotics in the food chain and water supply We are also exposed to high levels of harmful substances in the form of air pollution, radiation from microwaves, mobile phones, computers, etc, not to mention the cocktail of chemicals in cosmetics, shampoos, cleaning products and clothing, etc. All these substances are foreign to the body and need to be broken down and excreted by our body’s detoxification systems. Our main organs of detoxification are the liver, bowel, lungs and kidneys. These systems require certain nutrients such as vitamin B and C, zinc, selenium and other antioxidants to function effectively. Increased exposure to these foreign substances increases our body’s needs for these substances.
Changing Dietary Trends
Our intake of refined foods such as white breads and sugar and unhealthy fats such as chips and deep fried foods continues to increase. A recent survey of Australian children and adolescents found that fast foods, fruit/cordial drinks and sweets contributed to 41% of total energy intake. While natural foods such as fruits and vegetables are full of important vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, which support our detoxification systems, these processed foods are very low in these important nutrients. As a result, many people may be are risk of developing vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
Nutrient deficient soil
Australian soil is deficient in important minerals such as selenium and zinc, which are crucial for our health. Low selenium levels in particular are linked to increased cancer risk and lowered immune function. Zinc is also extremely important for healthy digestion, immune function, skin, hormones and energy production. • Prolonged Storage: These days we all rely on supermarkets and other stores to supply our dietary needs. These foods are often stored for extended periods of time. Unfortunately, storage of fresh foods reduces their vitamin and mineral content.
Stress related illnesses are one of the biggest health concerns in modern society. Scientific research is now validating that stress has a considerable influence on our body’s physiology, contributing to many acute and chronic illnesses. A report by the World Bank stated that 1 in 5 people suffer from depression or anxiety. Increasing levels of physical, mental and emotional stress increase the need for particular nutrients, including B vitamins, magnesium and vitamin C.
Smokers are particularly at risk of developing nutrient deficiencies due to the array of chemicals in cigarettes. In addition, smoking significantly increases the need for vitamin C – a vital antioxidant.
Substances such as coffee, tea and alcohol act as diuretics. Diuretics increase the rate of fluid elimination from the body. This results in increased elimination of vitamins and minerals, particularly water soluble vitamins such as vitamin B and C.
Oral contraceptive pills, blood pressure, cholesterol antidepressants and other medications increase the need for certain nutrients. For example, cholesterol medications increase the body’s need for Coenzyme Q10 an important antioxidant which is required for heart health and energy production. The oral contraceptive pill causes the body to excrete B vitamins and zinc and retain copper.
In conclusion, supplements are now an important prescription to stay healthy in an increasingly polluted and hectic world. Whilst there is a multitude of different supplements available to choose from, it is important to realize that all supplements are not equal in quality. In addition, we are all individuals with ever changing requirements. As a result, it is important to find the right combination of supplements to meet your individual needs. If in doubt if may be useful to seek professional advice from a naturopath who can design a supplement regime for your specific needs.