As our minds and bodies develop and grow in the early years of life, move through young adulthood to full maturity and eventually begin their decline into old age, each and every phase brings with it its own particular challenges. To help you meet them, we present extracts from a series of articles on health supplements for all ages by Dr Bernard Brom.
NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENTS FOR CHILDREN
Children grow rapidly and are often in too much of a hurry to think about eating, or they may be snackers who are constantly nibbling junk food. Far too many children still consume a diet high in fats, sugars and salt – think confectionery, soft drinks, crisps and savoury snacks, fast foods and pre-sugared breakfast cereals. In short, few have a really great diet with sufficient nutrients to provide optimal nutrition. Junk food must be reduced to a minimum, but at the very least children will also need a good-quality vitamin/mineral supplement.
Some important vitamins and minerals
- Lack of iron is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies in the world, partly because of its poor bio-availability. Vitamin C increases the absorption of iron.
- Vitamin D deficiency is becoming increasingly prevalent, especially since dermatologists put the fear of sunlight into us all! We need sunshine or vitamin D supplementation.
- Vitamin A deficiency is a problem worldwide, mainly affecting children. It can cause irreversible corneal damage and blindness, and contributes to childhood mortality from measles and diarrhoea.
- Zinc is another important micronutrient with major effects in the body.
- Iodine deficiency is the single most important cause of preventable brain damage and mental retardation. The iodising of table salt has helped to reduce its incidence.
- The US Organic Association has stated that children receive up to 35% of their entire lifetime dose of cancer-causing pesticides by the age of five, so optimal nutrition is required to detoxify the system.
Aggression and hyperactivity in children
A study in the American Journal of Psychiatry showed that children who experienced malnutrition at a young age had a striking increase in behavioural disorders as they grow older. They showed a 41% increase in aggression by age 8, and a 51% increase in violent and anti-social behaviour by age 17. Four primary nutrients were missing from their diet – zinc, iron, B-vitamins and protein. This major study could indicate a possible remedy for our very aggressive society.
And how many children have a ‘meal’ of a doughnut and a coke? Hyperactivity, inattention and restlessness are serious problems in schools. But instead of better nutrition and food choices, large numbers of children are given Ritalin, antidepressants and other mind-altering drugs.
What to do?
I am convinced that because of the high metabolic needs of children, our high levels of stress and the overwhelming number of toxins in the environment today, children need nutritional supplements even if they eat good-quality organic food. Extra nutrients are especially important for vegetarians or vegans, and children with multiple food allergies on a restricted diet. A general vitamin and mineral supplement should be given at the recommended dosage. This should be increased during times of stress, and when recovering from an illness.
Extra protein can be obtained from superfoods such as spirulina and other green concentrates, which also contain essential nutrients such as trace minerals. Essential fatty acids should be included in any supplement programme.
NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENTS FOR MEN
Men tend not to take nutritional supplements unless their wives put them in front of them at breakfast and supper time – they also don’t like to take too many nutrients, and prefer everything in one capsule or tablet. The one set of nutrients they do seem to remember, of course, are those related to sexual potency and health!
While growth may have slowed down, young men are often pumping muscles and need a high-protein diet and a vitamin/mineral supplement. Whey extracts are a good source of protein, and a mixture of spirulina, chlorella, barley green and other green concentrates will provide additional protein and is packed full of great nutrients.
A good-quality vitamin/mineral supplement is essential. The body is starting to age, stress is a major factor, and extra B-vitamins should be considered. Hypertension, raised cholesterol, weight gain and insulin resistance may already be of concern.
Garlic is one of my favourite herbs and is one of the best-studied plants in the world. It helps to control cholesterol, prevents blood clots and may even keep the blood pressure and blood sugar in check. Turmeric is another exciting herb. It has similar properties to garlic and is a powerful antioxidant.
I like to add one or a combination of nature’s superfoods, such as spirulina, chlorella, barley green or wheatgrass. They are packed with chlorophyll, vitamins and minerals, amino acids and other quality nutrients in the most natural and biologically friendly form.
Pycnogenol and grape seed extract have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and are especially useful for preventing and treating vascular problems such as varicose veins, hardening of blood vessels and easy bruising.
In this group needs include preventing disease and supporting health, anti-ageing programmes, and often extra nutrients for people who are taking medications. Statins (anti-cholesterol drugs), for example, cause co-enzyme Q10 deficiency, and no doctor should prescribe statins without supplementing with it. Diuretics are a common cause of potassium deficiency.
While women in particular need extra calcium, men may also need calcium and vitamin D to prevent osteoporosis. The B-vitamins are important to control homocysteine levels, and support multiple other functions in the body.
Again, a good general multivitamin/mineral supplement is essential, and the products mentioned for middle age become even more important. Magnesium is a valuable mineral at this stage. It is essential for over 300 metabolic processes and important for cardiovascular health.
Omega-3 fatty acids are among the star performers of our time, and their anti-inflammatory effects are especially useful in the older age group. Good quality is important, as these fats must be extracted from fish, which may have a high content of mercury.
Glucosamine (chondrosamine) is now used by many orthopaedic specialists for the prevention and treatment of osteoarthritis. It can be taken for prolonged periods.
Saw palmetto helps keep the prostate gland healthy, and can also be taken over long periods of time. Other important herbs for this age group include crataegus (hawthorn) for the heart, and Ginkgo Biloba for improving blood flow.
NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENTS FOR WOMEN
Women have very special needs because of their monthly hormonal fluctuations, the demands of pregnancy, and the plunge of hormone levels at menopause, which places a great deal of stress on the whole system.
The body changes rapidly at this time and extra nutrients are required, especially vitamins A, D and B6, minerals such as zinc, calcium and magnesium, and essential fatty acids.
Bone density reaches its maximum at about 18 years of age, so teenagers need sufficient calcium and magnesium, with plenty of sunlight to increase vitamin D levels. During winter (or if they spend too much time indoors in front of the TV) they will need extra vita- min D. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for brain development, and adequate protein is needed for good growth. Replace junk food with seeds, nuts, raisins and fruit to help your children reach optimal health during this important period of their lives, when the groundwork for future health is being laid.
The menstrual cycle
Loss of blood every month means that women have special nutritional needs. Women of menstruating age need plant-based iron. Iron levels should be checked. Premenstrual symptoms should be mild and easily handled. Unacceptable symptoms suggest that the system is not functioning well.
This is a time of major changes in the body. A range of factors, including low stomach acid secretion, poor micro-organism profiles, and poor food choices or lack of intake, may lead to nutrient deficiency. Bone density decreases, and exercise will improve efficacy of all metabolic processes and should be encouraged, together with good fluid intake. Many elderly people are on drugs that interfere with nutrient absorption or increase their requirements. Like men, women on statins should take co-enzyme Q10. Wherever possible, bio-identical hormones should be taken instead of synthetic hormones. Plant-based minerals calcium, magnesium and vitamin K should be taken and I strongly suggest vitamin B6.
NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENTS FOR THE ELDERLY
The elderly have their own special set of challenges. These include nutritional deficiencies due to poor diet and inefficient physiological processes, thinning of bones, arteriosclerosis (narrowing of blood vessels to the heart), increasing fragility, medication use, vision and hearing problems, and neurological conditions such as dementia and Parkinson’s disease. Although ageing and degeneration may be inevitable as we grow older, a great deal of research has shown the benefits of anti-ageing medicine.
In a 100-plus page report that reviewed more than a decade of the most significant studies measuring the health benefits of multivitamins and other nutritional supplements, benefit to the elderly was a consistent theme.¹ The author, Annette Dickinson, said: “In reviewing the available evidence, I was impressed by the powerful benefit that simple, daily intake of a multivitamin can have on overall immune function in the elderly.”
Some highlights of the report:
- Deficiency of critical nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D and vitamin E is especially common in the elderly.
- Elderly people living in nursing homes or long-stay care, or unable to do their own shopping, are at particular risk of developing nutrient deficiencies.
- Bone density is of crucial importance. It has been estimated that proper supplementation with calcium and vitamin D could reduce the rate of hip fractures by at least 20%.
What to do?
Everyone over the age of 60 years should take a multivitamin-mineral supplement. I generally also recommend a broad-spectrum antioxidant. Antioxidants neutralise the free radicals that have such a damaging effect on organs and tissues and are probably responsible for much of the ageing process. Antioxidants include zinc, selenium, copper, manganese, vitamins C, E and A, co-enzyme Q10, pine bark and grape seed extract.
Vitamin D3 is becoming one of the stars of nutritional medicine. The body needs sunshine to manufacture vitamin D in the skin, and huge numbers of elderly people are just not getting enough sunshine. The recommended dose is 5 000 IU.
Vitamin B12 deficiency has been found in as many as 10% of people over the age of 60 and could account for loss of balance, numbness and tingling of the arms and legs, confusion, and even dementia. The methylcobalamin form is recommended as it is more bioavailable than the cheaper cyanocobalamin form.
Calcium and magnesium are valuable, and it’s practical to take them in combination. Added vitamin D will facilitate the absorption of calcium. Between 1 200 and 1 500 mg of calcium is required, with half the amount of magnesium and 200 IU or more of vitamin D. Vitamin K is also recommended as it carries calcium out of the blood vessels and into the bone.
Many doctors warn against the use of nutritional supplements and suggest that food contains enough nutrients. In my experience, very few of us are eating a good diet. Stress uses up nutrients, the body needs nutrients to detoxify, and exercise burns nutrients. Supplements are essential, and there is more than enough research to back this claim.
- Dickinson A. The Benefits of Nutritional Supplements. Fourth Edition. https://www.crnusa.org/benefits/