A question via twitter prompted me to interrupt the series on cooking for a discussion of supplements. @JodieSwafford asks for research based info on best nutrients and supplements for athletic men in their 30’s. This topic is very clouded by marketing and there is little consensus, so I’ll do my best. I’ve often made it clear that our best source of nutrients is from food. If you consume a diet of local organically grown foods with a nice mix of grassfed beef, free range poultry, wild caught fish, organic dairy including yogurt, nuts and seeds, copious vegetables of all colors and a little bit of fruit, it’s unlikely that you would need or benefit from any supplements. Given that few eat like that, we find several supplements beneficial on an individualized basis. Most large scientific studies of supplements, such as the ones evaluating vitamin E (synthetic), beta-carotene and more recently fish oil, have shown poor results. Acknowledging that very few supplements have broad scientific endorsement, I’ll cover the ones I’m most likely to recommend based on basic science and smaller studies.
We routinely check blood levels of vitamin D, finding about 80% of folks low or borderline leading to supplementation with vita D3 1000-5000iu daily. Vita D acts like a hormone and is critical for many different functions. It’s found naturally in seafood and also produced in the skin by sunshine. The form added to milk is D2 which we do not recommend. I dealt with vitamin D in detail in a previous post so will not go back over that ground.
A discussion of vitamin D leads into consideration of the other fat soluble vitamins (A, E and K) because functionally they all work together. Vitamins A and D, for example, work together for their beneficial effects as well as each protecting against toxicity of the other. A product that I like because it contains a good mix of fat soluble vitamins is fermented cod liver oil mixed with high vitamin butter oil from Green Pastures. It’s expensive but arguably worth it as it contains these vitamins in their natural form which surely leads to better absorption and utilization. The vitamin A is retinol which in overdose can be toxic so you must be careful not to get too much. A dose of 1 tsp. per day should be adequate for most adults. The butter oil contains vitamin K2 which also works in synergy and is critical for vascular health. Cod liver oil also contains omega 3 fatty acids which I will discuss later. Most modern diets are deficient in all four fat soluble vitamins.
Two other vitamins which often need to be supplemented are the methylated forms of vitamin B9 (folate) and vitamin B12. If you have high homocysteine levels on a lab test or have been found to have a common genetic variation which reduces methylation (MTHFR variant), you may benefit from a supplement of methylfolate and methylcobalamin. These may also be helpful if you suffer from drug resistant depression. Ask your doctor about these nutrients. I wrote a post about methylation enzyme defects and useful supplements last summer. We have been recommending a product called “methyl assist”.
Next time will cover magnesium, CoQ10, fish oil and whey protein.