Tag: supplements

Why Your Brain Loves Vitamin D

by Mia Syn, M.S., R.D.

Vitamin D has long been referred to as the ‘sunshine vitamin.’ Vitamin D researchers suggest that 5-30 minutes of sun exposure at least twice a week between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. to exposed skin without sunscreen will result in sufficient vitamin D synthesis. (1) However, research suggests that almost 50 percent of the world population has vitamin D insufficiency – an estimated 1 billion people. (2) This has been attributed to populations staying indoors more and environmental factors like air pollution, which can obstruct the sun’s rays. (2)

Vitamin D is important for not only brain health but bone mineralization as well. Women are more likely to suffer from a bone fracture than men. (3) Roughly 40 percent of white women 50 years old or older in the United States will experience a bone fracture in their lifetime. (3) With International Women’s Day in early March, it is important to shed light on this key nutrient and elucidate the best ways to obtain adequate amounts.

All about vitamin D

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin obtained from food and dietary supplements, or made by the body. It is produced endogenously when skin is exposed to ultraviolent rays. This vitamin, however, is not active upon consumption. It must be activated through hydroxylation in the body, which occurs first in the liver, followed by the kidney. In the kidney, the activated form of vitamin D is produced in response to serum calcium and phosphorous concentrations. This is a reminder that several nutrients work synergistically with one another. Once vitamin D is activated, it acts as a hormone in the body.

Why your brain loves vitamin D

While the link between vitamin D and bone health has been largely explored, research just recently began illuminating the importance of vitamin D when it comes to brain health. Neuropsychiatric disorders such as cognitive impairment and dementia have been linked to vitamin D deficiency across the last decade of research. (4) The presence of vitamin D receptors in the brain implies that this vitamin plays a role in the functioning of this organ. (5) These receptors are largely located in areas associated with cognition and memory including the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex. (6) Additionally, the central nervous system has been identified as a target for vitamin D. Vitamin D metabolites have been found present in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), which surrounds the brain. (7)

There is evidence that vitamin D and its metabolites act to protect the brain through several mechanisms including promoting nerve growth and clearing amyloid plaques. (8) Because several neurodegenerative diseases are characterized by amyloid plaque buildup, this may be particularly beneficial.

Neurocognitive decline characterizes a large portion of the aging population. This population is especially at a high risk for vitamin D deficiency due to decreased synthesis and dietary intake. (9) Additionally, malnutrition is common in the elderly, which often accompanies other diseases that afflict these populations including diabetes and kidney disease.

How much do you need?

The recommended dietary intake for a healthy adult is 600 IU (15 mcg). However, elderly individuals over the age of 70 should aim for 800 IU (20 mcg). These intakes are established as sufficient to maintain bone health and normal calcium metabolism in healthy individuals.

Dark-skinned individuals are more prone to vitamin D deficiency since dark skin is higher in melanin and requires more sunlight to synthesize the vitamin. Research shows that vitamin D insufficiency is more prevalent among African Americans than other Americans. (10)

How can you get it?

There are few food sources that contain vitamin D which makes it that much more important to balance the need of sun exposure in moderation and supplementation where needed. Fatty fish including salmon, tuna and mackerel are known sources. Additionally, fortified foods provide a large portion of vitamin D in the American diet, including certain dairy products and breakfast cereals.

Sun exposure is an obvious answer when it comes to ways we can obtain vitamin D. However, there are several factors that determine the sufficiency including the season, time of day, cloud coverage, sunscreen and melanin content in the skin. The balance of sun exposure and skin protection from UV rays is a fine line. Ultra violet radiation is responsible for an estimated 1.5 million skin cancers yearly in America. (11)

Because of the few natural food sources of vitamin D coupled with the need to protect skin from the suns rays, dietary supplementation may be viable option to fill in gaps. Most dietary supplements contain vitamin D3, which has been considered the more efficacious form in its ability to raise active vitamin D levels in the serum while supplements containing the D2 form have been mostly considered less efficacious. (12)

References

  1. Holick MF. Vitamin D deficiency. N Engl J Med 2007;357:266-81
  2. Nair R, Maseeh A, et al: Vitamin D: The “sunshine” vitamin. J Pharmacol Phrmacother 2016; April-June.
  3. United States. (2004). Bone health and osteoporosis: A report of the Surgeon General. Rockville, Md: U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Office of the Surgeon General.
  4. Soni M, Kos K, et al. Vitamin D and cognitive function. Scand J Clin Lab Invest Suppl 2012.
  5. Harms L, Burne, THJ, et al. Vitamin D and the brain. Best Practice and Research Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. 2011.
  6. Eyles DW, Smith S, Kinobe R, Hewison M, McGrath JJ. Distribution of the vitamin D receptor and 1 alpha-hydroxylase in human brain. J Chem Neuroanat. 2005;29:21–30.
  7. Balabanova S, Richter HP, Antoniadis G, Homoki J, Kremmer N, Hanle J, Teller WM. 25-Hydroxyvitamin D, 24, 25-dihydroxyvitamin D and 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D in human cerebrospinal fluid. Klin Wochenschr. 1984;62:1086–90.
  8. Schlog M. Holick MF. Vitamin D and neurocognitive function. Clin Inter Aging. 2014.
  9. Harris SS, Soteriades E, Coolidge JA, Mudgal S, Dawson-Hughes B. Vitamin D insufficiency and hyperparathyroidism in a low income, multiracial, elderly population. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2000;85(11):4125-4130
  10. Harris S. Vitamin D and African Americans. The Journal of Nutrition. April 2006.
  11. Wolpowitz D, Gilchrest BA. The vitamin D questions: how much do you need and how should you get it? J Am Acad Dermatol 2006;54:301-17.
  12. Tripkovic L, Lambert H, Hart K, et al. Comparison of vitamin D2 and vitamin D3 supplementation in raising serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D status: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012;95(6):1357-1364.

The One Vitamin You Are Low In

 

By: Elizabeth Somer, M.A.,R.D.

Unless you’re supplementing daily with vitamin D, it’s likely you are deficient and don’t even know it. Up to three in every four people tested are low in this vitamin. What’s the risk?

Until recently, vitamin D’s sole job was to support calcium absorption and deposition into bone, thus lowering osteoporosis risk. This role is now considered the tip of the nutritional iceberg.

Every cell in your body has receptors for vitamin D, which means every cell, tissue, organ, and system, from the top of your head to the tip of your toes, needs the vitamin. It’s no wonder research shows that vitamin D might aid the body in muscle weakness, gum disease, diabetes, insulin resistance, hearing and vision loss, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, hypertension and depression, among other health conditions. It also supports pregnancy outcome and reduces the incidence of falls by up to 60 percent in seniors, while a deficiency can mimic symptoms of fibromyalgia. Preliminary studies also show a possible link between low vitamin D intake and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson’s disease and more.

Continue reading “The One Vitamin You Are Low In”

Common Misconceptions about Supplements

In our last article, we talked about the difficulties of meeting recommended guidelines for essential nutrients. iStock_000011975542_sm“Even if you follow a healthy diet, a busy lifestyle can make it difficult to obtain the recommended amounts of vitamins and minerals from food alone,” says Elizabeth Somer, a leading registered dietitian and author of several books, including “The Essential Guide to Vitamins and Minerals.”

So, how else can we get the nutrition we need? One easy way to maintain good nutrition is to enhance your diet with supplements. The problem for many is that the frequency of new studies combined with the staggering number of supplements available makes it increasingly confusing to know what is right.

To help you put nutrition news in context, Somer is debunking a few of the common misconceptions about dietary supplements:

Continue reading “Common Misconceptions about Supplements”

Throw Out Your Resolutions

UntitledWe are more than a month into the new year, so how are you doing with those resolutions?

If you’re struggling to keep up with your 2015 goal, you’re not alone. “So many of us look to the start of a new year to make big changes,” says Elizabeth Somer, nutritionist and author of ‘Eat Your Way To Happiness’. “Our intentions are great – we want to lose weight, be healthier, start a gym routine – but our goals are lofty and we get discouraged when we don’t reach them quickly enough.”

This year, why not drop the resolutions and adopt a year-round feel-good approach? By focusing on the good and making gradual changes in areas where you are unsatisfied you’re more likely to feel that sense of accomplishment. Here are a few ways to feel good in 2015:

  • Take stock: Instead of looking at what you need to be happier, appreciate all the good things you already have in your life. Give yourself a pat on the back for all of your accomplishments, big and small, from having a great relationship with your kids to cooking an excellent signature dish. For times when you need a nudge to remember your successes, try writing it down in a journal.
  • Eat Breakfast: A simple goal, but a worthy one. The benefits of breakfast are myriad  – starting your day with a healthy meal can give your energy, improve your ability to concentrate and even help you maintain a healthy weight. No time to sit down for scrambled eggs? Try something you can take on the go, like a smoothie. Even leftovers from last night’s dinner can work (don’t be afraid of veggies for breakfast!).
  • Supplement: While we’re on the topic of nutrition, an important goal is to get enough of the essential vitamins and nutrients that you need. Eating the right foods is important, but studies show that many of us aren’t hitting the nutritional mark with diet alone. Learn more about essential nutrients here: vitaminsinmotion.com and talk to your medical professional to determine what supplements are best for you.
  • Try something new: Anything that you haven’t done before counts for this one. Pilates, a language class, a new recipe, organizing a community event. Challenge yourself and you might find something you love doing.
  • Reach out: It can be too easy to stay in and hibernate during the long winter, but social connection is a key element for overall health. Make a point to spend time with loved ones, reconnect with long-lost friends or meet new people in your community. Bonus – making plans with other people will actually force you to get out and be active.

A Heart-Healthy Message from Santa and Mrs. Claus

Two of the most beloved holiday icons are leveraging their celebrity this season to bring attention to heart disease – the No. 1 cause of death in the U.S. Mrs. Claus is inviting American families to join her in making the same, heart-healthy lifestyle changes she and Santa are taking on this year to raise awareness for nutrition’s role in heart health.

Find out more and hear Mrs. Claus’ important message from her and Santa here: www.clausnutrition.comee59ef9a-1242-4a04-af2b-8b9ecf947716.HR

Supplements are important – even for celebrities

Did you know singer Katy Perry takes 26 vitamins and supplements every day? She must know how important taking a daily supplement can be to help fill in the nutritional gaps you may have in your diet. Registered dietitian Elizabeth Somer says most people would benefit from a well-chosen supplement.

 Image

 How do you know which vitamins and supplements you could benefit from? Of course, it is a good idea to consult with your doctor on the nutrients he or she recommends adding to your diet. Elizabeth Somer has provided some tips on choosing supplements.

  • Select a broad-range multiple that supplies as close to 100 percent, but no more than 300 percent, of the Daily Value for a wide variety of vitamins and minerals. A multiple should complement an excellent diet and fill in the gaps on days when you don’t eat perfectly. It’s not a substitute for a healthy diet, it’s a supplement.
  • Add a separate calcium plus magnesium supplement. You need calcium to keep your bones, skin, nerves, and muscle in tip-top shape, while magnesium is critical for coping with stress, maintaining a healthy heartbeat and blood pressure, and improving muscle, nerve, and bones. Unless you include at least three servings daily of calcium-rich milk or soymilk products and lots of magnesium-rich soybeans, nuts and wheat germ, you should supplement these two minerals into your diet.
  • If your multi-vitamin or calcium vitamin does not have at least 1000 IU of vitamin D, then consider a separate vitamin D supplement. Optimal intake of the vitamin D is associated with lowered risk for muscle weakness, gum disease, diabetes, insulin resistance, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, hypertension and certain cancers, including colon, breast, pancreas, and prostate cancers.
  • If you don’t consume at least two servings a week of fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, or herring, then take a DHA omega-3 supplement. You need at least 220mg of DHA, and possibly up to 900mg/day, to lower the risk for heart disease (the number one killer for both men and women).
  • More than half of Americans are worried about their vision worsening later in life, according to a recent survey by DSM Nutritional Products/Kelton. Ninety-four percent of Americans are unfamiliar with zeaxanthin, which is found in spinach, broccoli and kale. This nutrient, which may help improve eyesight, (along with lutein) can be taken in supplement form.

Four Steps to Choosing the Right Vitamins and Supplements

Last month, Elizabeth Somer, R.D. and author of Eat Your Way to Happiness, appeared on the TODAY Show to share her “4 Steps to Choosing the Right Vitamins and Supplements.”

In honor on the 100th Anniversary of the Discovery of Vitamins, Elizabeth recommended the following vitamins and nutrients to add to your daily routine:

1. Moderate dose multi-vitamin like Centrum Silver

2. Calcium + Magnesium supplement

3. Omega-3s and specifically algal DHA supplements like Algal-900, Expecta Lipil, BrainStrong

4. Vitamin D supplement