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Food supplements for optimal health

Extracted from Chapter 4 of Dr Arien’s book Health & Happiness


Supplements are daily additionsfood-supplements to a person’s normal diet to ensure optimal health and functioning of the body-mind unit. They support and strengthen the systems of the body so that the metabolism can function optimally.

Supplements consist mainly of micronutrients such as vitamins, minerals, amino acids, essential fatty acids and medicinal herbs. Macronutrients (macro = big) include carbohydrates (starch), fats and proteins. They are stored in the body and used when needed. Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose to provide energy (fuel) for all metabolic functions. Fats are broken down into fatty acids and glycerol and stored in the body as fats for later conversion into glucose for energy when needed. Proteins are broken down into amino acids and then built up in the body into proteins which have many functions in the body. Proteins can also be converted into glucose and used for energy, when needed. Most of us consume enough macronutrients – often too much! A balanced diet should always provide sufficient good quality, wholesome macronutrients.

Micronutrients are nutrients that must be taken daily in small quantities. The American Cancer Association recommends an intake of five to nine portions (a portion is equal to a large serving spoon or one medium-sized apple, one orange, etc.) of fresh fruit and vegetables every day, to provide adequate quantities for the daily requirement of micronutrients,  to prevent chronic diseases and ensure optimal health. Chronic diseases include diabetes, chronic bronchitis and emphysema, arthritis, allergies, chronic fatigue syndrome, cancer, atherosclerosis (thickening of the arteries), high blood pressure, eczema, psoriasis, chronic infections (such as sinusitis) and osteoporosis. Degenerative diseases are those conditions where there is a slow, progressive deterioration in the functioning of a specific system or organ. Diabetes, arthritis and atherosclerosis are examples of degenerative diseases.

The 5-9 a day are the suggested portions intended for the prevention of disease. As soon as we subject the body to an increased workload, our daily need for micronutrients increases accordingly. This happens during the usual stresses of daily life, any form of exercise and also while the body is dealing with a disease process.

This sets up a vicious circle: a lack of micronutrients plays an important role in the origin of the disease process. Disease and stress increase the burden on the body, causing an increased need for more micronutrients. If these are not provided through diet or food supplements, the disease gets worse and the body’s resistance to infectious organisms (viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites) and stress is reduced.

Eat as many fresh fruit and vegetables per day as possible, but for optimal health also take a good quality food supplement or nutriceutical (nutri = nutrition; -ceutical as in pharmaceutical = food as medicine and to promote health).

Except for freshness, you also need to vary your daily intake of fresh fruit and vegetables. It is not good enough eating seven apples in one day. Our body requires a wide variety of fruit and vegetables. An example of a balanced intake for a day would include a banana and a large slice of pawpaw for breakfast; a large mixed salad containing lettuce, tomato, three carrots, an apple, onion and quarter of a cucumber for lunch; and broccoli (lightly cooked), pumpkin (cooked until soft but without butter and sugar), cauliflower and green beans (both lightly cooked) for supper. Use different kinds of fruit and vegetables every day.

It is very difficult to comply with this quantity and variety of daily intake of fruit and vegetables. Our lifestyles simply do not permit it. For practical purposes, it is therefore essential to take supplementary micronutrients in the form of food supplements. They provide peace of mind and an extra health insurance policy; especially for mothers who will be satisfied that the whole family is getting the right micronutrients every day. The next challenge is that we do not always know how fresh the products are when we buy them. Research has shown time and again that the longer fruit and vegetables are removed from their source, the lower their vitamin and mineral content become.

The soil that supplies the nutrients to the plants we eat is often depleted of these nutrients. This can cause marginal deficiencies of a number of micronutrients in the body.

Farming methods can also be a challenge. Aspects of this include the over fertilisation of soil and excessive use of pesticides, which obviously affect the plants produced in the soil. Fruit and vegetables are often harvested before they are ripe and before they have reached their full nutritional status. The difference in taste between a home-grown organic tomato and supermarket tomato, reflects the difference in micronutrient quality.

The methods of crop cultivation often focus on appearance, resistance to insects and transport, rather than nutritional value. Fruit such as apples can be kept in cold storage for months until the market needs it. Eventually the product that comes on to the market, is quite unlike the original fresh fruit or vegetable – in taste, nutritional value and smell.

Many research studies have proven that food supplements contribute to the prevention of chronic degenerative diseases and should form part of an effective treatment program. Our cells need an abundant supply of micronutrients, including vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, amino acids and glucose. To meet this requirement, we must follow a healthy, wholesome diet and take the right supplements.

Choosing the right supplements

Most of us need to take natural food supplements or nutriceuticals, made from food sources. They are a good preventative measure and an excellent health insurance policy. Your next question would probably be which combinations you need and how much to take.

The rest of this book deals with the specific needs of certain people and in certain systems of the body where genetically weakened enzyme activity manifests itself in disease processes. These are general guidelines to give guidance and take the guesswork out of choosing the correct supplements.

Three basic products (Basic 3 Bundle for Optimal Health) are required. Unfortunately, the right quantities of each are not obtainable in one single supplement. If they were, it would be far too big to swallow!

  1. We should all take a calcium and magnesium supplement (600mg of calcium and 300 mg of magnesium for teenagers and adults and 900-1 200 mg of calcium and 450-600 mg of magnesium for women over 50 at night). The minerals should be in an amino acid chelated form for optimal absorption and bioavailability. Your supplement should also contain boron, vitamins D* and C.
  2. We should take a supplement of essential fatty acids in the form of omega-3 (for example, 250-1 000 mg of cold water salmon, cod liver or fish oil with EPA and DHA) and omega-6 fatty acids (for example 500-1 000 mg of evening primrose oil or GLA) every day.
  1. For general heart, brain and body support, you can take a comprehensive multivitamin and antioxidant combination (Heart-Brain-Body Support & Antioxidant) that complies with the following requirements:
  • Micronutrients work together synergistically in complex ways. It is therefore recommended that you take a micronutrient combination rather than one, two or three micronutrients on their own. Research has shown that combinations of micronutrients can alleviate almost any health problem. Let’s consider heart problems, as an example. Vitamin E is very important for the recovery of heart muscle function after a heart attack and for preventing atherosclerosis, but vitamins C and A, the minerals selenium, zinc and magnesium, the B-complex vitamins, the essential fatty acids, the amino acid L-carnitine and the co-enzymeQI0, are also essential for the optimal functioning and recovery of the heart. So do not use vitamin E on its own.
  • Your choice should include the following (quantities given are the total daily dosage):

Vitamin A with 60 per cent in the form of beta and mixed carotenes: about 5 000 international units (IU) or 1 500 micrograms (1,5 mg) of vitamin A and a minimum of 25 000 IU (15 mg) of beta carotene and mixed carotenes or carotenoids.

Vitamin C: Your multivitamin-antioxidant combination should contain about 250 mg of vitamin C. The total daily supplement for vitamin C is about 500 mg. If the multivitamin contains too little vitamin C, remember that your calcium supplement should also contain vitamin C. In any event, it is advisable to take vitamin C more than once a day. Take calcium and magnesium in the evenings at bedtime, therefore you’ll have vitamin C in the morning with your multivitamin-antioxidant combination, and in the evening with your calcium and magnesium.

Vitamin E: 100-200 IU (or 80-160 mg) a day, preferably in all four forms of vitamin E (alpha, beta, delta and gamma) also in the natural form (such as d-alpha-tocopherol).

Vitamin B-complex: about 40 mg of each (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6 occur mainly as a group) per day (i.e. 2 caps containing 20mg of each). Remember that folic acid is also a B vitamin (200micrograms a day). Vitamin B12 is usually taken in a quantity of about 25-50 micrograms a day. Choline, lecithin, inositol, 25 mg of each a day and biotin (25 micrograms a day) are also included in the B-complex vitamins.

Minerals (in an amino acid chelated form): Selenium 100 micrograms (take all components together), Chromium 200 micrograms, Zinc 15 mg, Copper 2 mg, Iron 15 mg (for premenopausal, pregnant and breastfeeding women only), Manganese 10 mg. The above quantities are for a person of average health who wants to remain healthy. In the case of disease, bigger dosages are required.

Phytonutrients (plant nutrients) such as the bioflavonoids quercetin, green tea, acerola cherry extract, tomato powder with lycopene, broccoli powder extract with sulphoraphane, grape seed extract with proanthocyanidin, resveratrol, Gingko biloba, alfalfa (lucerne) extract with lutein are some examples. Any phytonutrients in your multivitamin-antioxidant combination are beneficial to your health.

The combination can also contain the following: the amino acids L-carnitine, lysine, proline, L-glutamine, taurine and glycine, co-enzyme QI0 and the potent antioxidant glutathione (1 mg).

Vitamin D deficiency is implied in many health challenges:

  • A study by the journal Anticancer Research states very clearly that the more you make vitamin D from UVB rays, the lower your chances are of dying from 15 kinds of cancer.
  • Another study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that vitamin D can lower your risk for cancer by 77%.
  • The European Journal of Cancer looked at cancer rates all over the world. Their study states that vitamin D production in the skin decreases the risk for the following cancers: stomach, colorectal, liver and gallbladder, pancreas, lung, breast, prostate, bladder and kidney.
  • A study done for the journal Nature shows that the active form of vitamin D (calcitriol or D3), and its derivative vitamin D2, both cause skin cancer cells to die.
  • People who work outside like construction workers, gardeners and lifeguards, have a much lower risk of skin cancer than those who work inside.
  • Vitamin D deficiency has serious implications for women’s health: ovarian dysfunction and its clinical manifestations such as obesity, increased insulin resistance, ovulation difficulties and infertility. Studies regarding vitamin D status in patients with polycystic ovarian disease show that low vitamin D levels are implied in metabolic risk factors such as insulin resistance, BMI (body mass index), waist-to-hip-ratio, triglycerides, total testosterone and dihidroepiandrosterone (DHEA), whereas optimal Vitamin D levels lead to improved insulin sensitivity.

In conclusion

Micronutrients restore the functions of the body. They are not miracle cures. They simply help the body-mind unit and all our cells, organs and systems, to perform its multitude of functions effectively so that you can thrive in a condition of optimal health and wellbeing. Use your supplements regularly and in the correct quantities and combinations. Eat healthy, wholesome food. Use alcohol sparingly or not at all. Do not smoke. Practise stress management and relaxation techniques for physical, emotional, spiritual and mental health. Adopt a positive attitude to life. Laugh a lot. Do regular, moderate exercise. You will have an excellent chance of living to a ripe, healthy, wise and fit age of 120 years – our natural lifespan as human beings!