GROVE CITY —
Fall is quickly coming upon us! The chill in the air is so comforting and refreshing. The earth is displaying its brilliant colors as the goldenrod starts to bloom and bright colored orange leaves are sure to follow soon.
The cycle of the seasons is so refreshing. With this cycle, we tend to also look at getting our bodies geared up for the winter months to ward off the common cold and flu. I am definitely not talking about any vaccinations! Vaccinations is a topic for another day, but know that your immune system is not meant to be exposed to pathogens through a shot in the muscle. Many of them have no significant effect on getting sick anyway and contain mercury and aluminum, which has been known to cause Alzheimer's disease.
I'm talking about building your body and your immune system up with good nutrients. It's been so nice having fresh local fruits and vegetables to eat all summer and into the fall, but what about later when our choices aren't as nutritionally dense? Commercially grown foods lack the nutrients available in organic foods. This is where supplementation can help. Fifty-nine percent of Americans take supplements. For many, this is a good idea, but care is still needed to get the best results.
God created us to use food to get the fuel for our growing, repairing, and healing bodies. Foods are highly complex structures of various nutrients that work synergistically together to feed us. Ever since scientists learned to isolate various nutrients in the early 1940s and even synthesize them in labs, studies have been done to see why different foods seem to help different illnesses. Studies seem to give varying results as many of you can recall from the past 30 years.
How many foods have you been told to avoid and years later told they're OK -- or vice-versa? Or how many times have you heard of a specific vitamin or mineral to help a certain condition, then you take it with less positive results than you expected? Many times this happens because it is noted that a group of people eat a certain way and then scientists decide it is because of high levels of a certain nutrient. The reality is that the specific nutrient needs to be accompanied by a host of lesser ones that are in the food. These lesser nutrients are often ignored by the study.
Every vitamin is surrounded by a complex of other nutrients. There is no substitute for getting the whole complex. We lack the ability to completely use isolated, chemically-processed nutrients. Our bodies try to balance them out with the other parts of the complex that might be in their nutrient stores. With this process, taking mega doses of isolated vitamins long term can actually make you vitamin deficient in other areas.
This is where we need to go back to the basics of our food.
Mega doses are never found in nature, only in synthetically made vitamins. This is why whole food vitamins are so important. Organic foods are dehydrated under low temperatures to preserve all nutrients and enzymes and then put into capsule or tablet form. These ultimately are like actually eating the food -- but, for example, not having to eat a plateful of beet tops.
I want to share a few examples in the next couple of columns.
Let's talk about vitamin A. People with good vitamin A stores in the body have a lower risk of heart disease, cancer, eye disorders and more. Food contains carotenoids like lycopene, beta-carotenes, lutein, and zeaxanthin, which the body turns into vitamin A. All of these can be synthesized in a lab as chemical compounds, as well.
Eating tomatoes, which have high levels of lycopene, is believed to help prevent prostate cancer or reduce the tumor growth. Lycopene taken separately does not show near the protection and doesn't reduce tumor size at all. Yet lycopene is the nutrient touted by studies as the lone hero. Many people start taking this supplement separately and not in a whole food product and just waste their money unless it has the other healthy compounds as found in the tomato.
Whole food supplement companies' labels actually list the food sources, not a bunch of isolated nutrients. Look for a trusted company to provide a great resource when good, organic food isn't available or you just don't like to eat it. Other sources of vitamin A are dark green leafy vegetable, sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkins and winter squash. Notice that most of these are dark green or orange in color. Always relate color intensity to nutrient density, and the more variety, the better. This is referring to a natural whole food, not something like colorful fruity puffed rice cereal!
In 1996, the Beta-Carotene and Retinol Efficacy Trial, using mega doses of synthetic beta-carotene, had to be stopped early because of the increased incidence of lung cancer, heart disease and death among the participants. The effects seemed to decrease over the next five years following the trial so it was determined it was related to the synthetic supplements. Researchers reviewing the outcome did state that fruits and vegetable containing higher levels of beta-carotene did have a positive effect, but did not recommend taking beta-carotene as a separated and/or synthetic form. Four other studies indicated that smokers should not take an isolated or synthetic form of Vitamin A as it may increase the risk of lung cancer; however, there is no indication of foods high in carotenoids have any ill effects.
Over and over I hear of studies showing the reduced effects of synthetic vitamins in U.S. trials compared with European trials on the same nutrient, which instead use foods that are naturally higher in the same nutrient. That is much of the controversy heard through the years on the efficacy and importance of taking vitamins. Know the source of who is backing the trial and what course of the nutrient is being studied.
Supplements need to come from a food source if your body is to use it completely and get the benefits you want. Nutrients are never found isolated in nature.
One thing about it all: If you want to have enough vitamin A in your diet, eat dark green and orange colored organic foods and don't worry about it! If you don't really like these, get a good whole food vitamin from a reputable company, such as Standard Process.
As fall descends upon us, notice all the orange colors you see and let it be a reminder for you to get a good source of vitamin A in your diet.
Rhonda Brooks is a licensed practical nurse and massage therapist. She owns a health food and supplement store in downtown Grove City.