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WHY TAKE VITAMINS?

by Elmer M. Cranton, M.D.

Nutritional supplements have their greatest benefit by preserving health and preventing future illness. This is accomplished with a wide spectrum of vitamins, minerals, trace elements and antioxidants that, in  balanced combination, provide optimum levels for long life and to slow the aging process. Immediate improvement is usually not noticed unless there a significant deficiency is present, far below optimal levels.

Tiny amounts of vitamin micronutrients are necessary to prevent overt diseases of deficiency, such as scurvy (vitamin C), pellagra (niacin) and beri beri (thiamin), but much higher levels are needed for optimum health and to slow the overall aging process. It is difficult to achieve optimum intakes without adding a nutritional supplement to the dietary intake. Higher levels thus achieved strengthen the immune system and help prevent infections. Antioxidants combined with a full spectrum of vitamins and minerals, taken in balanced proportions, protect cells from damage by free radical oxidation as fuel is burned to produce chemical within cells. Heart attacks, strokes, cancer, arthritis and other age-associated diseases can be prevented or delayed in their onset.

Published nutrition research from the University of California shows that by merely taking a daily multiple vitamin, containing vitamin C and others, average life span increases by 6 years.  A World Health Organization study in Europe has shown that low blood levels of vitamin E correlate far better with death from heart attack than do high levels of cholesterol. In fact, cholesterol is necessary for health and is beneficial unless oxygen radicals first damage it. The anti-cholesterol campaign is largely a false issue. Vitamin E and other antioxidants protect cholesterol from free radical damage and maintain its healthy state. Other research in the United States has shown that vitamin E acts to reduce heart attacks.

Recent reports show that sudden rupture from inflammation, and not large plaque-blockages, are the main cause of heart attacks

The internal surfaces of blood vessel  become inflammed with age, just as joints become inflamed with arthritis. Cardiovascular disease involves a widespread inflammatory process, which can cause a sudden, clotting or internal rupture of a blood vessel wall, blocking a location with no plaque that would previously appear quite normal on angiogram. That is why elevated laboratory tests for inflammation, such as CRP (C-reactive protein), correlate with heart problems. Inflammation is a free-radical mediated process. The body's primary anti-inflammatory defenses require a large number of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. The statin, cholesterol-lowering drugs work in a similar fashion, but with the added risk of many associated side effects and toxicity. The reduction in heart disease seen with cholesterol lowering drugs has little to do with cholesterol. Statins have some have  anti-inflammatory effect on body tissues, more safely achieved with nutritional supplements. Statins increase risk but with risk of toxicity, greater cost and only partial benefit.

Forty or more vitamins, minerals and other metabolic co-factors can be combined in a cascade of interlocking steps to preserve health and prevent illness. They are best all  present in optimal amounts for proper function. For example, neutralizing a free radical inactivates vitamin E. It is immediately restored to its active state by vitamin C, which in turn is inactivated. Vitamin C is then reactivated by glutathione that relies on a further cascade of another 40 micronutrients in succession to completely convert the damaging effects of free radicals to useful energy. Beta-carotene and coenzyme Q10 are also necessary. If one link in that chain is missing or deficient, benefit from the entire process is reduced. It is therefore important to insure optimum intake of the whole group. A chain is only as strong as the weakest link.

Be cautious with metallic elements. If one nutritional trace element is taken in excess of its proper ratio to other trace elements, it can block uptake of something else, causing an artificial deficiency. For example, zinc in excess can block the uptake of copper, causing a copper deficiency. Zinc without selenium can cause a relative deficiency of selenium. Almost all minerals and trace elements interact in this way, as do some of the vitamins and antioxidants. High quality multiple supplements are scientifically formulated and balanced in the ratios of all ingredients to be of most benefit.

Iron is an exception. For most people, unless a proven deficiency is shown by blood testing, consumption of iron in supplements can be harmful and will speed the onset of cancer, atherosclerosis and other free radical related diseases.

Copyright © 2011 Elmer M. Cranton, M.D., all rights reserved

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