BOCA RATON, Fla.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--When it comes to vitamins and supplements, what are the best ones to consider? Can you take too much and what happens if you do? Should your doctor know your vitamin intake? Can they really prevent certain diseases? Is a multivitamin sufficient? How do you know what nutrients you’re not getting? Are any of your prescription meds linked to vitamin deficiencies? These are common questions asked about vitamin and supplement use. The reality is that this is a multi-billion-dollar industry with people self-prescribing, often blindly. In order to educate consumers, MDVIP-affiliated physicians, Louis Malinow, MD, and Leslie Emhof, MD, recommend considering some of these seven vitamins and supplements that can help you achieve optimal health.
As Americans search for key ingredients to living healthy and preventing disease, Dr. Malinow, an internist and noted lipidologist in Baltimore, Maryland, said the simple answer may be in what patients lack in their daily diets. “Supplements simply ‘supplement.’ They are not a rescue from poor habits or a replacement for healthy eating. I prefer to sharp shoot with specific supplements rather than take a shotgun approach.”
Dr. Emhof, a Tallahassee, Florida-based family practitioner and geriatrician, added, “Many supplements CAN interact with prescription medications, which is why it is SO IMPORTANT to share any new supplements you are taking with your doctor. Try to do your best with diet and exercise first, and then add supplements to get even better.”
Faced with an alphabet soup of options, which supplements should you choose and why? Below, Dr. Malinow and Dr. Emhof share their top seven recommendations:
Vitamin D. Dr. Emhof calls this his No. 1 supplement and he tests his patients annually for low levels of D. “Unless you live on the equator, where the sun is directly overhead, you are likely vitamin D deficient.” Vitamin D works more like a hormone and affects every cell in the body. It has been shown to boost immune and nerve function, aid memory and mental acuity and help with calcium absorption and bone health. Some studies have shown that it can reduce the risk of cancer, including breast, colon, prostate, leukemia, lymphoma and melanoma. Those with D deficiency have a greater risk of dying from any cause, as well as higher risk of complications after surgeries.
Probiotics. Is your gut bacteria healthy and strong enough? If you have taken antibiotics recently or suffer from digestive disturbances, the right probiotic can help keep bad bacteria in check. In addition, they can also possibly improve anxiety, depression and immune function. “At any given time, we all have healthy disease-fighting bacteria and unhealthy disease-promoting bacteria. Your diet strongly influences which bacteria you have. A diet rich in sugar, high-fructose corn syrup and processed foods will cause the wrong bacteria to proliferate and can be damaging to your health,” said Dr. Emhof. So, which one should you consume? Dr. Malinow warns, “A good probiotic should be able to survive the acidic environment of the stomach to reach the intestine where it is most effective.”
Omega 3 Fatty Acids. These are healthy fats as opposed to trans fats. There are two types of Omega 3s: animal-based (like fish oil, krill oil, and even grass-fed beef); and plant-based (things like flaxseeds and chia seeds). The animal-based Omega 3s are preferred because the body utilizes them more efficiently. They can help improve heart disease, decrease inflammation and may reduce the incidence of certain cancers. “I personally recommend krill oil over fish oil as it is absorbed better. Krill oil and fish oil are both fats and as such, they’re subject to going rancid and require preservatives to prevent this. The preservative in fish oil supplements is vitamin E, while the preservative in krill oil is astaxanthin, known to be one of the world’s strongest antioxidants,” advised Dr. Malinow.
Vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is essential for making proteins and is a key factor in the aging process. It is also very important for maintaining an adequate energy source for cells. “Deficiencies of B12 can be caused by many common drugs prescribed for heartburn or diabetes, including metformin, the most popular diabetes drug in the world, and antacids like Prilosec and Nexium,” commented Dr. Emhof. Some diseases, like anemia, can be caused by deficiency in B12 due to its role in proper red cell production.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). Oxidation is what ages us. It damages cells over time and is thought to be what causes many diseases later in life. CoQ10 is an antioxidant that helps our cells manufacture energy properly. Deficiency, especially with age or for those on statin-type cholesterol medication, often leads to muscle weakness or pain. If you are deficient in CoQ10 and have a heart attack, you have a higher chance of damaging more heart muscle — essentially a larger heart attack. “I recommend all statin users (Lipitor and Crestor, for example) take CoQ10. Patients on these drugs develop CoQ10 deficiency, and this accounts for the 10 to 30 percent incidence of muscle pain or weakness with these medications. “If you are a statin user and have tried CoQ10 and STILL have muscle pain, add a supplement called L-carnitine. This with the CoQ10 is my secret weapon for statin-intolerant patients,” said Dr. Malinow.
Turmeric. Studies have shown that people from India have among the lowest incidence of degenerative brain disease and pain from arthritis. Many associate this with diets high in turmeric (also known as curcuma longa or curcumin). A spice derived from a plant, turmeric is believed to have multiple anti-cancer properties. Safe, tasty and with no significant risks, look for a capsule brand with 95 percent curcuminoids (the active component) and a brand that states it also has black pepper or piperine substances which greatly enhance absorption from the gut into the body. Turmeric is also easy to incorporate into your cooking. “Turmeric is my go-to for cancer prevention. Some studies have shown it helps interrupt the cancer process,” said Dr. Malinow. “It has also been shown to prevent a buildup of the protein that leads to the damage that causes Alzheimer’s.”
Creatine. Long a favorite of bodybuilders and athletes looking for short bursts of energy, creatine does a lot more. It donates energy to muscle. It will not make your muscles bigger, but will give you more power. This can be important for anyone in rehab or physical therapy. Use creatine an hour or so before a workout or therapy for added endurance and potentially quicker recovery. “As we age, we lose the ability to produce energy inside each of our cells. This loss of energy production is common to diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, and supplementation with creatine can increase energy production significantly. This leads to improved muscle strength in the elderly and cognitive improvement in some studies using large doses. The only concern is that you must have normal kidney function in order to use it,” recommended Dr. Malinow.
“This is not about illness medicine or how to get better, but wellness medicine and how to maintain optimal health,” Dr. Emhof says. “Ask your doctor his or her philosophy on vitamins and supplements.”
You should consult with your doctor before starting any diet, exercise, supplementation or medication program.
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ABOUT LOUIS B. MALINOW, MD
Louis B. Malinow, MD is an MDVIP-affiliated physician and board certified in Internal Medicine and Hypertension Specialist as well as a Diplomat, American Board of Clinical Lipidology, practicing for over 19 years in Baltimore, MD. Dr. Malinow graduated from the University Of Maryland School Of Medicine and completed his residency at Stanford University Hospital in Stanford, CA. Dr. Malinow is one of the only physicians in Maryland with this dual specialty in high blood pressure and high cholesterol management. He is also a member of the prestigious Alpha Omega Alpha medical honor society and is recognized by Best Doctors and Top Doctor by U.S. News & World Report and Baltimore Magazine. Dr. Malinow has appeared on numerous news programs advocating for preventive care and wellness.
ABOUT LESLIE S. EMHOF, MD
Leslie S. Emhof, MD is an MDVIP-affiliated physician and board certified by the American Academy of Family Physicians and Geriatric Medicine practicing for over 30 years in Tallahassee, Florida. Dr. Emhof graduated from the SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, New York and completed his internship and residency at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital. He is a Fellow, American College of Specialists in Geriatrics and a Fellow, American College of Ethical Physicians. Dr. Emhof is Medical Director at Westminster Oaks and has been recognized by Best Doctors.
Drs. Malinow & Emhof are available for interviews