Monthly Archives: June 2012

Who Needs Supplementation?

Who Needs SupplementationYou feel tired most of the time and the Doctor suggests a multivitamin. Now you are in a fix. Should I? Do I really need to take dietary supplements? A supplement literally means something added to complete a thing or make up for a deficiency. Dietary supplement thus means a substance which when added to diet helps in making up deficiency in the diet. A supplement provides added insurance that you are getting adequate intake of necessary vitamins and other micro-nutrients.

Health care providers have had mixed views on the inclusion of dietary supplements in the daily diet. Yes we do compensate usage and losses of nutrients through diet but there are certain ages and physiological conditions which sincerely get benefited by including dietary supplements in their diet.

Who all need dietary supplements?

1. Women may need extra calcium all through their life and especially post menopause. Calcium can be added in diet using milk and milk products, ragi, sesame, and from over-the-counter calcium in the form of calcium carbonate and calcium citrate. Calcium supplements are best absorbed when taken with meals, at a dose of 500 mg once or two times a day depending on the requirement.

2. Women who bleed excessively during menstruation may need to take iron or iron and folic acid supplements to meet the daily recommendation. Pregnant and lactating women are usually given supplements by their doctors to meet their increased needs for iron, calcium and other nutrients.

3. Women planning pregnancy should take a folic acid supplement prior to conception. A recent study led by Radek Bukowski, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of Texas, suggests that women who took folic acid for one year prior to pregnancy reduced their risk of delivering a premature baby by 50 to 70 percent apart from preventing the occurrence of other congenital (present from birth) malformations. Because pregnancy is often unplanned, ideally a female should start taking folic acid when she becomes sexually active. A standard folic acid supplement contains a sufficient amount of folic acid i.e., 400 micrograms.

4. Teenagers often have irregular eating habits and may not eat a balanced diet. A multivitamin with minerals can help fill in the nutritional gaps. Some teenage girls also need daily calcium and iron supplement.

5. Strict Vegetarians (people who abstain from milk and dairy products apart from egg and flesh foods) are advised to take iron and B12 daily. Iron and B12 deficiency occurs frequently in strict vegetarians. Vegetarian sources of iron have low absorption rate as compared to non-veg sources whereas Vitamin B12 is not found in foods of plant origin which might lead to their deficiencies.

6. Dieters and people who avoid entire food groups (like milk, fat, etc.) are more likely to have vitamin and mineral deficiencies. A daily multivitamin with minerals can be taken in consultation with a physician.

7. People with deficiency diseases or malabsorption disorders due to some allergies or intolerances (e.g. people allergic to wheat or gluten or intolerant to lactose) may need multivitamins. Similarly people taking prescription medications that interfere with the absorption of nutrients may also need higher dose supplements.

The kind of diet we are into nowadays (packaged, ready to eat, convenience foods) is seriously deficient in micronutrients. But the author doesn’t encourage people to make dietary supplement their way of life. Ask yourself a question am I taking 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily? If yes no need to go for supplements. If no try to include fruits and veggies in your daily diet. Not possible? Ask a doctor and only then go for dietary supplements.

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Cholesterol: How much is too much?

Cholesterol, a term everyone despises. But how and at what levels does cholesterol influences your health. Read on…..

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a form of fat our body uses to protect nerves, make cell tissues and produce certain hormones. Internally it is made by liver cells and we also get cholesterol from the food we eat (like eggs, meats and dairy products).

Are there different types of cholesterol?

Yes. Cholesterol travels through blood in different types of bundles, called lipoproteins. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) delivers cholesterol to the blood and High-density lipoprotein (HDL) removes cholesterol from the bloodstream. This explains why too much LDL cholesterol is bad for the body, and why a high level of HDL is good.

When should you start having cholesterol levels checked?

You can’t tell if you have high cholesterol without having it checked as there are no physical signs of the same. All adults, 20 years of age and older should have their cholesterol checked every 5 years. If your cholesterol level is high or you have other risk factors for heart disease, you may need to have it checked more often.

A blood test known as a lipid profile is administered to get cholesterol checked.

What does your cholesterol level mean?

Total cholesterol

  • Less than 200 mg/dL is best.
  • 200-239 mg/dL is borderline high.
  • 240 or more means you are at risk for heart disease.

LDL cholesterol

  • Below 100 mg/dL is ideal for people at high risk of heart disease.
  • 100-129 mg/dL is near optimal.
  • 130-159 mg/dL is borderline high.
  • 160 or more means you are at risk for heart disease.

HDL cholesterol

  • Less than 40 mg/dL means you are at high risk for heart disease.
  • 60 or higher greatly reduces your risk of heart disease.

Why is a high cholesterol level unhealthy?

While some cholesterol is needed for good health, too much cholesterol in your blood can increase your risk for heart disease, including heart attack or stroke. Your body may store the extra cholesterol in your arteries (blood vessels). Over time, this build up can become hard and make your arteries narrow or might even completely block an artery. If this blocked artery supplies blood to heart, a heart attack can occur or stroke in case this blocked artery supplies blood to brain.

What can I do to improve my numbers?

It is a good idea to have your cholesterol checked regularly if there is a problem. Here are some steps you can take to improve your cholesterol levels:

  • If you smoke, quit.
  • Exercise regularly. Brisk walking for 30 minutes/day is a good goal
  • Lose weight if needed. Losing just 2.5 to 4.5 kg will show favorable changes in your lipid profile.
  • Avoid saturated (red meat, whole milk dairy products, coconut oil, cocoa butter) and Trans fats (fried foods, commercially baked goods, processed foods, margarines). Also limit your overall cholesterol intake to less than 300 mg per day and 200 mg if you have heart disease.
  • Eat a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet with plenty of fresh veggies, whole grains, and fruits
  • Include good amount of ω-3 and ω-6 fatty acids in the diet as food (flaxseed, canola oil, walnuts, soybean oil, lettuce, broccoli, spinach, vegetable oils like corn, sesame, sunflower) or supplements

Cholesterol is also affected by blood pressure and blood glucose. If your blood glucose or blood pressure is high, your cholesterol numbers may be high as well.

Do I need to take medicines to lower cholesterol?

Depending on your risk factors, if healthy eating and exercise don’t work to lower your cholesterol level, your doctor may suggest medicine.

Talk to your doctor about whether you may be at higher risk for diabetes and heart disease. Then take steps to lower your risk so you can live a longer, healthier life.