Vitamin Q&A: The Best Supplements

By Rovenia Brock, PhD

Posted on | By Rovenia "Dr. Ro" Brock

Are you overwhelmed by the amount of supplements that are on the market? Nutritionist Dr. Rovenia Brock clears up the confusion by answering your common questions.

How can my health benefit from an omega-3 supplement?

Research indicates omega-3 fatty acids (found in fish oil) play a role in a variety of processes in the body that keep us healthy! People who eat omega-3 rich fish several times a week probably do not need to take omega-3 supplements, but those of us who don’t get enough from diet alone may benefit from supplementing with fish oil daily. In fact, 500 mg per day of EPA/DHA is recommended by many health care professional organizations. Omega-3 fatty acids have been found to support heart health as well as joint, brain and eye health. They also have been shown to help maintain triglyceride levels already in the normal range and may reduce the risk of heart disease later in life.

How does an omega-3 supplement help to preserve heart and brain health?

Omega-3 fatty acids help to protect mental and physical health. The two primary omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Both EPA and DHA promote and maintain the normal, restorative response throughout the body. In addition, EPA/DHA supports heart health and circulatory integrity, and may help maintain healthy triglyceride levels already in the normal range. Those with documented heart health concerns are advised to supplement with 1000 mg of EPA/DHA per day. DHA is a constituent of membranes of nerve cells in the brain and is thought to play an important role in normal brain development and function.

Why is vitamin D important to my overall health?

Vitamin D has emerged as a "star supplement" because of its many nutritional benefits for men, women and children. Vitamin D plays a key role in the proper absorption of calcium for strong bones and teeth and has been shown to support colon, breast, prostate, ovarian, heart and colorectal health. This important vitamin also supports a healthy immune system in adults. Unfortunately, too many Americans have suboptimal levels of vitamin D.

What are the symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency and how can a vitamin D supplement help?

Although rare, recent evidence has indicated a reemergence of vitamin D deficient rickets and an alarming prevalence of vitamin D insufficiency in the U.S. population, including those with darker skin pigmentation, the elderly, and people living in geographical areas with limited sunlight or heavy pollution. Because the typical symptoms are achy bones and muscle discomfort, vitamin D deficiency is often misdiagnosed as fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome.

Recognizing that vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency are major public health concerns for both children and adults in the United States, vitamin D supplements can help. Vitamin D supplements are available in two forms: vitamin D2 and vitamin D3. The D3 form is more active than the D2 form and a better choice when choosing a supplement. Dosage levels range from 400 to 5000 I.U. Talk to your doctor or health care provider about a simple blood test to determine the right dosage for your individual vitamin D needs.
 

What is the role of coenzyme Q10 (also known as CoQ10) in the body?
Coenzyme Q10 (also known as CoQ10) is a vitamin-like compound that aids in the production of the body’s energy. That is because it is found primarily in our mitochondria – small cell structures that act as the powerhouse of a cell. The highest concentrations of CoQ10 are where we need the most energy – your heart, liver and kidney.

How do the antioxidant properties of coenzyme Q10 (also known as CoQ10) protect my body/my heart?

CoQ10’s energy generation makes it vital to heart health, while its powerful antioxidant properties add yet another layer of protection in maintaining a healthy heart. Together with vitamin E, CoQ10 fights damaging free radicals.

How important is it that I take vitamin C to support my immune health?

Vitamin C supports a healthy immune system, a common worry in the winter months. Vitamin C supports the body’s defense system by protecting the integrity of cells, and affecting the production and function of white blood cells. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps fight against free radicals in the body. Free radicals are molecules that can harm your healthy cells and negatively impact the way those cells function in the body.

Vitamin C has other roles in the body as well. It is important for the health of teeth, bones, gums and blood vessels. It also helps the body absorb iron, and helps with wound healing. It is also vital for the production of collagen, which is important for skin health.

What vitamin pairings are the most powerful?

Many vitamins work together to help the body function at its best. For example, vitamin C helps to rejuvenate vitamin E after it neutralizes free radicals. Vitamin C also helps support the absorption of iron. 

Calcium gets a helping hand from vitamin D, which encourages the absorption of calcium into the body and into the bones. 

Taking a multivitamin is a readymade set of vitamin pairing in one easy-to-swallow capsule. One multivitamin a day can help ensure that a full array of essential nutrients are powering your body.

What are all the different types of B-vitamins and what are the key benefits?

The entire B-vitamin family should be a part of your daily intake.

Thiamin: Also known as vitamin B1, Thiamin is necessary for the body to produce energy from the foods you eat, and is also needed for the synthesis of DNA and RNA. Thiamin is found in a wide variety of foods, although some of the best sources of Thiamin are lentils, whole grains and pork. Thiamin can also be found in red meats, yeast, nuts, sunflower seeds, peas, milk, cauliflower, spinach and legumes.

Riboflavin: Also known as vitamin B2, Riboflavin is a basic building block for normal growth and development. It is needed for healthy energy production and also supports the antioxidant activity in the body. Riboflavin is found in a variety of foods such as fortified cereals, milk, eggs, salmon, beef, spinach and broccoli.

Niacin: Niacin is also known as vitamin B3, and supports over 200 chemical reactions in the body including energy production and fatty acid synthesis. Niacin in the form of nicotinic acid has studied for its role in cardiovascular health. Good sources of Niacin include beef, poultry and fish as well as whole wheat bread, peanuts and lentils.

Pantothenic Acid: Also known as vitamin B5, pantothenic acid helps support fatty acid synthesis and energy production in the body. Pantothenic Acid is widely available in plant and animal food sources. Rich sources include organ meats (liver, kidney), egg yolk, whole grains, avocados, cashew nuts, peanuts, lentils, soybeans, brown rice, broccoli, and milk.

Vitamin B6: Involved in over 100 cellular reactions throughout the body, vitamin B6 is instrumental in keeping various bodily functions operating at their best. B6, also known as pyridoxine, is needed to metabolize amino acids and glycogen (the body’s storage form of glucose), and is also necessary for normal nervous system, hormone and red blood cell function. Vitamin B6 is fairly abundant in the diet and can be found in foods such as meat, poultry, eggs, bananas, fish, fortified cereal grains and cooked spinach.

Biotin: Biotin, or vitamin B7, is commonly found in foods such as brewer’s yeast, strawberries, organ meat, cheese and soybeans. For those who are biotin deficient, studies show that biotin may help in the health of hair, skin & nails. biotin also supports healthy carbohydrate, protein & fat metabolism.

Folic Acid: Also known as vitamin B9, folic acid is needed for DNA synthesis, the formation of red blood cells and for the metabolism of amino acids. Folic acid is most commonly known for it role in fetal health and development as it is critical for the formation of a baby’s spinal cord and nervous system. This important developmental process occurs during the initial weeks of pregnancy, and so adequate folic acid intake is especially important for all women of child-bearing age. Fortified foods such as breads and cereals are good dietary sources of folic acid. Other good sources are dark green leafy vegetables such as asparagus and spinach as well as brewer’s yeast, liver, fortified orange juice, beets, dates and avocados.

Vitamin B12: Vitamin B12, or cobalamin, plays a critical role the pathways of the body that produce energy. It is also needed to for DNA synthesis, red blood cell formation and for healthy nervous system function. Individuals who follow vegan or vegetarian diets may benefit from a B12 supplement since B12 is predominantly found in foods of animal origin such as chicken, beef, fish, milk and eggs.

How can B vitamins help to sustain my energy level?

Energy is an essential but often overlooked component of good health. B vitamins work together to help produce energy by converting food into energy, helping maintain nervous system health, and they are essential for red blood cell and protein formation.  There are a variety of B vitamin supplements, most of which aid in the production and release of energy in the body.

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