Vitamins, Minerals and the Immune System

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each day, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
Vitamins, Minerals and the Immune System

Vitamin D
The many roles for vitamin D that have been discovered in the last decade include contributions to the strength and robustness of the immune system. For example, vitamin D has been shown in research published recently in the Journal of Clinical Investigation to enhance the immune system’s production of small protein molecules that support the body’s defenses against external immune insults.36 Vitamin D appears to interact in a coordinated manner with cells near a new wound, strengthening the ability of the body to protect its integrity while a wound heals.

Vitamin C
One of the major functions of vitamin C is to work with the cells of the immune system to enhance their ability to maintain our immune defenses. The day-to-day importance of this function was endorsed by the Cochrane Collaboration (an independent therapeutic assessment service whose conclusions are relied upon by many health professionals, including the American Academy of Family Physicians).37 After a thorough statistical re-analysis of the scientific literature, this group concluded that vitamin C supports the human immune system.

Zinc
The intriguing role of zinc as an essential trace element for immune function is well established. Zinc facilitates crosstalk and coordination of effort between the various cells of the immune system and is absolutely required in order for immune cells to rapidly replicate and multiply during an immune response. If zinc is not available in sufficient amounts, immune cell functions are compromised; for example, zinc ensures the accuracy of cellular immune marker recognition by some types of lymphocytes. In addition, the effective response of the white blood cells known as “natural killer cells” is dependent on zinc supplies. Clearly, maintaining strong zinc status promotes healthy immune system functioning. Because the ability of the human immune system to adapt to new challenges has been shown to decline with increasing age, the importance of healthy zinc nutrition to healthy immune system function can have a tremendous beneficial impact on healthy aging.38

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
B-Vitamins and Energy Levels

References:
36. Schauber J, Dorschner RA, Coda AB, Buchau AS, Liu PT, Kiken D, Helfrich YR, Kang S, Elalieh HZ, Steinmeyer A, Zugel U, Bikle DD, Modlin RL, Gallo RL. Injury enhances TLR2 function and antimicrobial peptide expression through a vitamin D-dependent mechanism. J Clin Invest 2007;117:803-811.
37. Simasek M, Blandino DA Treatment of the common cold. Am Fam Physician 2007;75:515-520.
38. Stromberg SP, Carlson J. Robustness and fragility in immunosenescence. PLoS Comput Biol 2006;2:e160 (doi:10.1371/ journal.pcbi.0020160).

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Vitamins, Minerals and the Prostate Gland

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each day, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
Vitamins, Minerals and the Prostate Gland

Selenium
Selenium is a potent supporter of prostate health. According to scientists who published the results of a detailed analysis of the scientific evidence dietary supplementation with 100 mcg of selenium every day can contribute substantially to the long-term health and healthy function of a man’s prostate.28 It seems that the way in which selenium works is that it “seeks out” the cells of the prostate and, by helping to maintain a healthy oxidant/antioxidant balance, promotes sustained health of these all-important cells.29

In fact, in promoting prostate health, the US Food and Drug Administration announced on February 21, 2003, that “Selenium may reduce the risk of certain  cancers. Some scientific evidence suggests that consumption of selenium may reduce the risk of certain forms of cancer” and “Selenium may produce anticarcinogenic effects in the body. Some scientific evidence suggests that consumption of selenium may produce anticarcinogenic effects in the body.” These statements highlight the importance of receiving an adequate supply of this nutrient.

Vitamin E
While selenium powerfully protects the inner workings of prostate cells, their cell membranes also need defense against oxidative invasion. This is where vitamin E fits in. Recent scientific evidence illustrates the important role of vitamin E in maintaining prostate health by promoting its antioxidant effects on prostate cells.30,31

Zinc
Prostate health isn’t just a matter of antioxidants. It also depends on proper metabolic control of energy processing within the gland. Even early loss of a small part of regulatory control can decrease prostate health. Although the regulation of energy processing is a complex process in any cell, a few quirks in the way prostate cells handle this challenge have placed the mineral, zinc, in a pivotal position. Recently published research illustrates the role of zinc in prostate function and highlights the special needs of the prostate for zinc.32 The prostate needs zinc for health – so all men need zinc for prostate health.

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
Vitamins, Minerals and Normal Blood Glucose Regulation

References:
28. Etminan M, FitzGerald JM, Gleave M, Chambers K. Intake of selenium in the prevention of prostate cancer: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Cancer Causes Control 2005;16:1125-1131.
29. Sabichi AL, Lee JJ, Taylor RJ, Thompson IM, Miles BJ, Tangen CM, Minasian LM, Pisters LL, Caton JR, Basler JW, Lerner SP, Menter DG, Marshall JR, Crawford ED, Lippman SM. Selenium accumulation in prostate tissue during a randomized, controlled short-term trial of L-selenomethionine: A Southwest Oncology Group Study. Clin Cancer Res 2006;12:2178-2184.
30. Weinstein SJ, Wright ME, Pietinen P, King I, Tan C, Taylor PR, Virtamo J, Albanes D. Serum a-tocopherol and .-tocopherol in relation to prostate cancer risk in a prospective study. J Natl Cancer Inst 2005;97:396-399.
31. Kirsh VA, Hayes RB, Mayne ST, Chatterjee N, Subar AF, Dixon LB, Albanes D, Andriole GL, Urban DA, Peters U; PLCO Trial. Supplemental and dietary vitamin E, beta-carotene, and vitamin C intakes and prostate cancer risk. J Natl Cancer Inst 2006;98:245-254.
32. Costello LC, Franklin RB. The clinical relevance of the metabolism of prostate cancer; zinc and tumor suppression: Connecting the dots. Mol Cancer 2006;5:17 (13 pages). doi:10.1186/1476-4598-5-17 (http://www.molecular-cancer.com/content/5/1/17).

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Vitamins and Minerals – Helping Hands of Health

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each day, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
Vitamins and Minerals – Helping Hands of Health

The vitamins and essential minerals are just that – essential. They must be part of the diet every day, day after day, year after year. Long-term failure to include enough of even one vitamin or essential mineral from the diet will cause disease, cell death and tissue degeneration. Eventually, the entire body will begin to die. Obviously, this is not a scenario consistent with the goal of Healthy Aging, as deficiencies of essential minerals and vitamins are the unhealthiest way to age. In the paradigm of healthy aging, ensuring adequate intakes of these essentials is the first step. Without this essential foundation, the other pillars of healthy aging crumble fast.

By now, in this enlightened, affluent, highly-educated era, it would seem reasonable to expect that no one in the US could possibly suffer from a deficiency of a vitamin or essential mineral. Or so the US government and the American Medical Association may have you believe. Unfortunately, it just isn’t so.

According to US government data, over 90% of all adult Americans do not consume enough calcium every day to satisfy the current government-sanctioned (that is, minimal) dietary standards. The same holds true for magnesium and vitamin E. Another 75% of all US adults are deficient in copper or zinc; half are deficient in vitamin C, vitamin D or chromium; and between 10% and 15% are deficient in one or more of the B-vitamins. Amazingly, even in the face of the current epidemic of obesity, widespread nutritional deficiencies are rampant in the US. We’re eating more than ever in the history of human existence. Yet, what we’re eating more of is empty calories. Processed foods are a high percentage of the Standard American Diet (So SAD!) and these foods are devoid of many essential vitamins and minerals. So while we’re eating more, we’re not consuming enough of the essentials.

You might ask, “So what? I don’t feel unhealthy.” It’s not like we have problems with:

Gum Health (vitamin C and magnesium);
Hair Health and rough skin (B-vitamins);
Prostate Health (vitamin D, vitamin E, selenium and zinc);
Healthy Blood Sugar (chromium, magnesium and vanadium);
Bone Health (calcium, magnesium, boron, vitamin D, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K);
Memory Issues (folate/folic acid, thiamin, choline, vitamin E, selenium);
Heart Health (selenium, calcium, magnesium, vitamin C, vitamin E and vitamin D);
Periodontal Health (calcium, magnesium, vitamin C and vitamin D);
Weak Immune Systems (selenium, zinc, vitamin C and vitamin D); or
Feeling Tired (B-vitamins and magnesium).

These issues are so prevalent in our population that it’s easy not to be concerned about them. The more one thinks about them, though, the more one realizes the problems they can lead to. The irony of it all is that these areas can all be supported simply by ensuring adequate intakes of essential vitamins and minerals.

In addition to the prevention of the classically recognized nutritional deficiency diseases, healthy intakes of vitamins and minerals can do the body a world of good. A few stellar examples should make the point.

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
Vitamins, Minerals and Longevity

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Vitamin D and Helper Nutrients

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each day, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
Vitamin D’s Helper Nutrients

In order to work effectively in the body, vitamin D needs certain cofactor nutrients. Vitamin D is metabolized by enzymes of the Cytochrome P-450 system. These enzymes require magnesium to facilitate their function. Subclinical magnesium deficiencies are common because many of us do not eat enough of the foods that contain magnesium (green vegetables, nuts, and whole grains). Research supports the fact that a majority of Americans are magnesium deficient. Besides playing a role as a cofactor for numerous enzymes, magnesium plays other significant roles in the body, including supporting bone health, nerve transmission and muscle function. Magnesium also promotes cardiovascular function.

Some very important calcium proteins, called Vitamin K dependent proteins, need adequate amounts of vitamin K to work properly. Vitamin K promotes calcium formation in bone but prevents deposition in other organs. The best source of vitamin K is green leafy vegetables, like spinach and kale. How often do you eat those vegetables? Furthermore, research shows that K2, the preferred supplemental form of vitamin K, plays a large role in cardiovascular health in addition to its role in supporting bone health.

In addition to ensuring sufficient magnesium and vitamin K levels, vitamin D requires zinc to perform its designated functions. The Vitamin D Receptor is like a glove, and the base of the fingers of the glove is a zinc molecule. Thus, in those who are zinc deficient, vitamin D cannot function properly. Zinc deficiencies are common, especially in those who eat little meat.

Boron may be another key mineral for enabling vitamin D’s beneficial biological effects. While little is known about boron, other than it is common in green vegetables, fruit and nuts, a number of studies have found that it is important for facilitating the actions of vitamin D on the cell wall. Studies show many Americans get little Boron, again because green vegetables, fruit, nuts, and whole grains are not consumed as often as they should be.

Thus, the key to health remains 5,000 IU of vitamin D a day and a healthy diet, one rich in colorful vegetables and fruits, whole grains, adequate protein, and cold-water fatty fish, a diet that is varied, containing many different foods, and one that is low in foods that contain “empty calories.” For added insurance, everyone should be on a multivitamin containing sufficient levels of magnesium, vitamin K, zinc and boron, among the other essential vitamins and minerals.

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
Vitamin D – the Vitamin of the 21st Century

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