Vitamins and Minerals Overview

Vitamin and Mineral Supplements are now recommended even by the mainstream medical profession to help prevent vitamin and mineral deficiencies when the diet is not adequate to provide all necessary nutrients. Of course, it is just about impossible to achieve an “adequate diet” with the groceries you can buy these days. Larger amounts of some nutrients protect against future disease. The typical SAD (Standard American Diet) supplies inadequate amounts of several essential vitamins and minerals.

Recent nutrition surveys in the U.S. have found large numbers of people consume too little calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper and manganese. Some specialized diets, including weight-loss, vegetarian, or macrobiotic can create their own deficiencies. Studies have found that elderly people living in their own homes, often have dietary deficiencies of vitamin A and vitamin E, calcium, and zinc, and occasionally of vitamin D, vitamin B1, and vitamin B2. Premenopausal women often consume insufficient amounts of calcium, iron, vitamin A, and vitamin C.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is important for the function of the immune system. Beta-carotene is a precursor to vitamin A, with a separate role in human health. Studies of smokers have reported that supplements of synthetic beta-carotene increased the risk of both heart disease and lung cancer. Duh! Take the real thing.

Vitamin B

B-vitamins, including thiamine (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), and niacin (vitamin B3), are added to white flour products and other foods that have been depleted of those vitamins. Unfortunately, your regulators can’t anticipate all your needs, so you’d be better off eating natural foods, because industrial food producers will not put into their product anything beyond the regulated amount. Biotin, is usually not a problem. Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), on the other hand, appears to be in short supply in the typical diet. Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) is important in prevention of heart disease by helping to regulate blood homocysteine levels.

Folic acid deficiency is common in the U.S., affecting about 11% of healthy people. While FDA raised the required supplementation levels, these increases are not enough to prevent heart disease and birth defects. The requirement for folic acid doubles during pregnancy. Vitamin B12 deficiency occurs in people taking acid-blocking drugs. Folic acid, B12 and pyridoxine (vitamin B6) are important for the control of homocysteine levels in the blood. Elevated homocysteine levels are associated with several diseases, including heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and osteoporosis. Daily supplementation with B-vitamins lowers elevated homocysteine levels.

Vitamin C

Deficiency was found in college students and smokers. The recommended doses are much too low to counteract stressful lifestyles or to cure a serious disease.

Vitamin D

Obtained from the diet or from sunlight exposure, but in insufficient quantities by most. Vitamin D insufficiency is associated with bone loss and fractures.

Vitamin E

27% of the U.S. population had low blood levels of vitamin E according to a recent study. Supplementing with 100 IU per day lowered risk of heart disease, and 400-800 IU of vitamin E per day reduced the risk of nonfatal heart attacks.

Vitamin K

Deficiency severe enough to cause bleeding problems is rare, but osteoporosis is common.


Good calcium nutrition throughout life is essential for achieving peak bone mass and preventing deficiency-related bone loss. The protective effect of calcium on bone is one of very few health claims permitted by the FDA. Aim for 1,500 mg daily calcium intake.


Necessary nutrient, but diets are almost always adequate.


Deficiency is very common, and its symptoms are wide-ranging. Effective magnesium supplementation must be transdermal (through your skin).


Serious deficiencies are rare, but subclinical problems are rampant. Raising potassium intake can prevent high blood pressure and stroke. The maximum amount of supplemental potassium allowed in one pill (99 mg) is far below the recommended amounts (at least 2,400 mg per day). The best way to get extra potassium is to eat several servings per day of fruits, vegetables, or their juices, or Superfoods.


Deficiency is common with vegetarians, menstruating girls and women, pregnant women, and female and adolescent athletes. Excessive iron intake has been associated in with heart disease, some cancers, diabetes, increased risk of infection, and exacerbation of rheumatoid arthritis.


Iodized salt is supposed to take care of iodine intake, but there are many other problems associated with refined salt. Consider kelp, dulse, or superfoods.


Helps increase immune function, but too much zinc impairs it. 50 mg of zinc per day is plenty. Regular supplementation with zinc should be complemented by copper supplements to prevent zinc-induced copper deficiency.


Supplementation with 3 mg per day of copper may help prevent bone loss. Copper should be taken with zinc supplements to balance its effect.


Low in refined and processed foods, manganese has been associated with osteoporosis and bone loss in postmenopausal women. Manganese should be included with iron supplements, since iron can reduce manganese absorption and cause lower body levels of manganese.


Deficiency has been associated with blood sugar and cholesterol abnormalities.


RDA of 70 mcg per day of selenium appears to be much too low: recent double-blind study found that people given a supplement of 200 mcg of yeast-based selenium per day for 4.5 years, had a 50% drop in the cancer death rate over seven years compared with the placebo group.


Essential trace element with low potential for toxicity. Deficiencies lead to serious amino acids absorption problems.

Author: Life Enthusiast Staff