By Jason Barker ND
Barker is a naturopathic physician specializing in sports medicine and
family practice. His practice is in NW Portland. Once an avid athlete,
he now gets his exercise by taking care of his brand new twin daughters!
Dr. Barker at
vigorous five-mile walk will do more good for an unhappy but otherwise
healthy adult than all the medicine and psychology in the world.
Paul Dudley White
in a Series
Essential Nutrients: What You Really Need from Supplements
As we discussed
in the previous issue, supplements are everywhere. Walk into nearly
any grocery store, and you will find enough supplement choices to quickly
overwhelm you. Many of the claims on these supplements may be inflated,
and content can also be questionable. Some of the more important individual
nutrients found in multivitamin/mineral combinations are highlighted
is a trace mineral and is found mainly in the hemoglobin of red blood
cells and in the myoglobin of muscle cells where it is required for
oxygen and carbon dioxide transport. Iron is also used in several enzymes
and energy-producing systems in the body. It is also essential in the
production of the neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin.
Most often a deficiency of iron leads to one form of anemia known as
microcytic/hypochromic anemia. Iron deficiency can have serious negative
consequences; just as important, iron overdose can be deadly. In fact,
it is one of the most frequent causes of poisoning death in small children.
Iron supplementation is controversial. Typically menstruating women
are the only group of people who need iron replacement on a continual
basis, only because of regular blood loss. Men rarely require iron supplementation
and in fact, men with higher intakes of iron have an increased risk
of heart disease. If you are unsure about whether you should take iron,
in any form, consult a physician. The doctor can order some tests to
determine your iron status. Dont just start taking iron if you
E is a fat-soluble (meaning it can be stored in your body) vitamin
found in many foods including grains, eggs, fruits, and vegetables.
Unlike most nutrients, vitamin E does not have a specific role in a
required energy-producing process. Most likely, the main function of
vitamin E is that of an antioxidant that prevents the formation of free
radicals. Vitamin Es therapeutic benefits have primarily been
attributed to its antioxidant effects. This being said, research has
revealed numerous positive results from vitamin E in conditions ranging
from asthma to Alzheimers disease to improving immune function.
A recent study involving vitamin E made big headlines reporting that
people taking supplemental vitamin E died sooner than those not taking
it. Dont buy this! This study in particular raises more questions
than answers and was flawed. We know from hundreds of other studies
that vitamin E intake is related to many healthful effects. As athletes
reading this magazine, vitamin E is important for its antioxidative
capabilities; athletes produce more free radicals than sedentary people.
is a highly important mineral used in innumerable ways in the human
body. It is essential for normal bone structure and plays an essential
role in over 300 cellular reactions. It is required for protein synthesis
and carbohydrate metabolism, and is critical for maintaining nerve and
muscle functions. Dietary sources of magnesium include legumes, whole
grains, vegetables (especially broccoli, squash, and green leafy vegetables),
animal proteins, seeds, and nuts. Among athletes, perhaps the best use
of magnesium is as a mild muscle relaxant. Magnesium works especially
well in people who always have some sort of muscle spasm or tightness.
One of the often-mentioned electrolytes, magnesium needs to be replaced
in those with high activity levels. In addition to tight, cramping muscles,
magnesium works wonderfully for exercise-induced asthma. Magnesium,
like all nutrients, must be taken with caution. Excess intake of this
mineral can cause diarrhea, respiratory depression, cardiac arrest,
and death. Therefore, magnesium supplementation should not take place
until one can consult with a nutritionally oriented physician.
known as pyridoxine, is necessary for the metabolism of amino acids,
lipids, and carbohydrates in the body. B-6 is involved in the function
of approximately 60 enzyme systems. B-6 is important for processing
of essential fatty acids (fish oils, flax, etc.). It is also very important
in preventing heart disease as it assists with the removal of a dangerous
amino acid (homocysteine) from the blood. Deficiency of B-6 can result
from many disease conditions, people taking oral birth control pills,
and some asthma medications. The food coloring FD&C yellow #5 is
known to interfere with B-6 in the body. B-6 has been shown to benefit
many health conditions in addition to healthy brain function. Some of
these conditions include asthma, cardiovascular disease, carpal tunnel
syndrome, kidney stones, pregnancy-associated nausea, and PMS.
is contained in over 300 enzymes in the body. Zinc is needed for growth
and development, behavior and learning, proper immune function, healing
of tissue damage, reproduction, taste, smell, and the function of the
hormones insulin and thyroid hormone. Zinc plays a large role in the
function of several immune cells and deficiency seems to negatively
affect immune function. Typically consumed in adequate amounts, zinc
may easily become deficient from poor diet and disease conditions.