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Earl Mindell's New Vitamin Bible
By Mindell, Earl
Grand Central Life & StyleCopyright © 2011 Mindell, Earl
All right reserved.
The regimens throughout this book are recommendations, not prescriptions, and are not intended as medical advice. Before starting any new program, check with your physician or a nutritionally oriented doctor (see section 418), especially if you have a specific physical problem or are taking any medication.
GETTING INTO VITAMINS
1. Why I Did
Starting out, my professional education was strictly establishment when it came to vitamins. My courses in pharmacology, biochemistry, organic and inorganic chemistry, and public health hardly dealt with vitamins at all—except in relation to deficiency diseases. (Lack of C? Scurvy. Out of B1? Beriberi. Insufficient vitamin D? Rickets.)
There were no references to vitamins’ being used for disease prevention or as ways to optimum health.
In 1965 I opened my first pharmacy. Until then I had never realized just how many drugs people were taking, not for illness but simply to get through the day. My partner at the time was very vitamin-oriented. Both of us were working fifteen hours a day, but only I looked and felt it. When I asked him what his secret was, he said it was not a secret at all. It was vitamins. I realized what he was talking about had very little to do with scurvy and beriberi and a lot to do with me. I instantly became an eager pupil, and have never since regretted it. After embarking on the most elementary vitamin regimens, I was not only convinced, I was converted.
Suddenly nutrition became the most important thing in my life. I read every book I could find on the subject, clipped articles and tracked down their sources, dug out my pharmacy school texts and discovered the amazingly close relationship that did indeed exist between biochemistry and nutrition. I attended any health lecture I could. In fact, it was at one such lecture that I learned of antioxidants and their age-reversing properties. (I have been taking antioxidant supplements since then, as well as SOD—superoxide dismutase, an enzyme present in green and white tea extracts. Today, because of these, most people guess me to be five to ten years younger than I am.) I was excited about each new discovery in the field, and it showed.
A whole new world had opened up for me, and I wanted others to share it.
By 1970 I was totally committed to nutrition and preventive medicine. Today, as a nutritionist, lecturer, and author, I’m still excited about the world that opened up to me more than forty years ago—a world that continues to grow with each new discovery that is made.
2. What Vitamins Are
When I mention the word vitamin, most people think pill. Thinking pill brings to mind confusing images of medicine and drugs. Though vitamins can and certainly often do the work of both medicine and drugs, they are neither.
• Quite simply, vitamins are organic substances necessary for life. Vitamins are essential to the normal functioning of our bodies and, save for a few exceptions, cannot be manufactured or synthesized internally. Necessary for our growth, vitality, and general well-being, they are found in minute quantities in all natural food. We must obtain vitamins from these foods or from dietary supplements.
What you have to keep in mind is that supplements, which are available in tablet, capsule, liquid, powder, spray, patch, and injection forms, are still just food substances, and, unless synthetic, are also derived from living plants and animals.
• It is impossible to sustain life without all the essential vitamins.
3. What Vitamins Are Not
A lot of people think vitamins can replace food. They cannot. In fact, vitamins cannot be assimilated without ingesting food. There are a lot of erroneous beliefs about vitamins, and I hope this book will clear up most of them.
Vitamins are not pep pills and have no caloric or energy value of their own.
Vitamins are not substitutes for protein or for any other nutrients, such as minerals, fats, carbohydrates, water—or even for one another!
Vitamins themselves are not the components of our body structures.
You cannot take vitamins, stop eating, and expect to be healthy.
4. How They Work
If you think of the body as an automobile’s combustion engine and vitamins as spark plugs, you have a fairly good idea of how these amazing substances work for us.
Vitamins are components of our enzyme systems that, acting like spark plugs, energize and regulate our metabolism, keeping us tuned up and functioning at high performance.
Compared with our intake of other nutrients like proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, our vitamin intake (even on some megadose regimens) is minuscule. But a deficiency in even one vitamin can endanger the whole human body.
5. Should You Take Supplements?
Since vitamins occur in all organic material, some containing more of one vitamin than another and in greater or lesser amounts, you could say that if you ate the “right” foods in a well-balanced diet, you would get all the vitamins you need. And you would probably be right. The problem is, very few of us are able to arrange this mythical diet. According to Dr. Daniel T. Quigley, author of The National Malnutrition, “Everyone who has in the past eaten processed sugar, white flour, or canned food has some deficiency disease, the extent of the disease depending on the percentage of such deficient food in the diet.” Additionally, the October 2002 Journal of the American Medical Association reported a research study stating categorically that “every adult should take a multiple vitamin since it is impossible to obtain all the nutrients needed in our daily food intake today.”
Because most restaurants tend to reheat food or keep it warm under heat lamps, if you frequently eat out or take out you run the risk of vitamin A, B1, and C deficiencies. Also, since so many of our foods are processed or genetically modified (75 percent of the food in grocery stores has been genetically modified), lack of calcium, folic acid, and magnesium is epidemic. (And if you’re a woman between the ages of thirteen and forty, this sort of work-saving dining is likely to cost you invaluable bone-building calcium and iron.)
Processed foods have been depleted in nutrients. Take breads and cereals, for example. Practically all of them you find in today’s supermarkets are high in nothing but carbohydrates. “But they are enriched!” you say. It’s written right on the label: enriched.
Enriched? Enrichment means replacing nutrients in foods that once contained them but because of heat, storage, and so forth no longer do. Foods, therefore, are “enriched” to the levels found in the natural product before processing. Unfortunately, standards of enrichment leave much to be desired nutritionally. For example, the standard of enrichment for white flour is to replace the twenty-two natural nutrients that are removed with three B vitamins, vitamin D, calcium, and iron salts. Now really, for the staff of life, that seems a pretty flimsy stick.
I think you can see why my feeling about taking supplements is clear.
6. What Are Nutrients?
They’re more than vitamins, though people often think they are the same thing. Carbohydrates, proteins (which are made up of amino acids), fats, minerals, vitamins, and water are all nutrients—absorbable components of foods—and necessary for good health. Nutrients are necessary for energy, organ function, food utilization, and cell growth.
7. The Difference Between Micronutrients and Macronutrients
Micronutrients, like vitamins and minerals, do not themselves provide energy. The macronutrients—carbohydrates, fat, and protein—do that, but only when there are sufficient micronutrients to release them.
The amount of micronutrients and macronutrients you need for proper health is vastly different—but each is important. (See section 75 for the protein–amino acid connection.)
8. How Nutrients Get to Work
Nutrients basically work through digestion. Digestion is a process of continuous chemical simplification of materials that enter the body through the mouth. Materials are split by enzymatic action into smaller and simpler chemical fragments, which can then be absorbed through walls of the digestive tract—an open-ended muscular tube, more than thirty feet long, which passes through the body—and finally enter the bloodstream.
9. Understanding Your Digestive System
Knowing how your digestive system works will clear up some of the more common confusions about how, when, and where nutrients operate.
Mouth and Esophagus
Digestion begins in the mouth with the grinding of food and a mixture of saliva. An enzyme called ptyalin in the saliva begins to split starches into simple sugars. The food is then forced to the back of the mouth and into the esophagus, or gullet. Here is where peristalsis begins. This is a kneading, “milking” constriction and relaxation of muscles that propels material through the digestive system. To prevent backflow of materials, and to time the release of proper enzymes—since one enzyme cannot do another enzyme’s work—the digestive tract is equipped with valves at important junctions.
The tiny valve at the end of your esophagus opens long enough for chewed-up particles to enter the stomach. Occasionally, especially after eating, this valve relaxes—which is what enables you to belch. But a relaxed valve can also allow the acid from your stomach to be pushed back up into the esophagus, causing what’s known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)—better known to those who experience it as heartburn (see section 290).
This is the biggest bulge in the digestive tract, as most of us are well aware. But it is located higher than you might think, lying mainly behind the lower ribs, not under the navel, and it does not occupy the belly. It is a flexible bag enclosed by restless muscles, constantly changing form.
Virtually nothing is absorbed through the stomach walls except alcohol.
Watery substances, such as soup, leave the stomach quite rapidly. Fats remain considerably longer. An ordinary meal of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats is emptied from the average stomach in three to five hours. Stomach glands and specialized cells produce mucus, enzymes, hydrochloric acid, and a factor that enables vitamin B12 to be dissolved through intestinal walls into the circulation. A normal stomach is definitely on the acid side, and gastric juice, the stomach’s special blend, consists of many substances:
Pepsin The predominant stomach enzyme, a potent digester of meats and other proteins. It is active only in an acid medium.
Rennin Curdles milk.
HCl (hydrochloric acid) Produced by stomach cells and creates an acidic state.
The stomach is not absolutely indispensable to digestion. Most of the process of digestion occurs beyond it.
Twenty-two feet long, this is where digestion is completed and virtually all absorption of nutrients occurs. It has an alkaline environment, brought about by highly alkaline bile, pancreatic juice, and secretions of the intestinal walls. The alkaline environment is necessary for the most important work of digestion and absorption. The duodenum, which begins at the stomach outlet, is the first part of the small intestine. This joins with the jejunum (about ten feet long), which joins with the ileum (ten to twelve feet long). When semiliquid contents of the small intestine are moved along by peristaltic action, we often say we hear our stomachs “growling.” Actually the stomach lies above these rumblings (called borborygmi), but even with the truth known it’s doubtful the phrase will change.
Large Intestine (Colon)
Any material leaving the ileum and entering the cecum (where the small and large intestine join) is quite watery. Backflow is prevented at this junction by a muscular valve.
Very little is absorbed from the large intestine except water.
The colon is primarily a storage and dehydrating organ. Substances entering in a liquid state become semisolid as water is absorbed. It takes twelve to fourteen hours for contents to make the circuit of the intestine.
The colon, in contrast to a germ-free stomach, is lavishly populated with bacteria, normal intestinal flora. A large part of the feces is composed of bacteria, along with indigestible material, chiefly cellulose, and substances eliminated from the blood and shed from the intestinal walls.
The liver is the largest solid organ of the body and weighs about four pounds. It is an incomparable chemical plant. It can modify almost any chemical structure. It is a powerful detoxifying organ, breaking down a variety of toxic molecules and rendering them harmless. It is also a blood reservoir and a storage organ for vitamins such as A and D and for digested carbohydrate (glycogen), which is released to sustain blood sugar levels. It manufactures enzymes, cholesterol, proteins, vitamin A (from carotene), and blood coagulation factors.
One of the prime functions of the liver is to produce bile. Bile contains salts that promote efficient digestion of fats by detergent action, emulsifying fatty materials.
This is a saclike storage organ about three inches long. It holds bile, modifies it chemically, and concentrates it tenfold. The taste or sometimes even the sight of food may be sufficient to empty it out. Constituents of gallbladder fluids sometimes crystallize and form gallstones.
This gland is about six inches long and is nestled into the curve of the duodenum. Its cell clusters secrete insulin, which accelerates the burning of sugar in the body. Insulin is secreted into the blood, not the digestive tract. The larger part of the pancreas manufactures and secretes pancreatic juice, which contains some of the body’s most important digestive enzymes—lipases, which split fats; proteases, which split protein; and amylases, which split starches.
10. The Importance of Enzymes
Enzymes are necessary for the digestion of food, releasing valuable vitamins, minerals, and amino acids that keep us alive and healthy.
Enzymes are catalysts, meaning they have the power to cause an internal action without themselves being changed or destroyed in the process.
Enzymes are destroyed under certain heat conditions.
Enzymes are best obtained from uncooked or unprocessed fruits, vegetables, eggs, meats, and fish.
Each enzyme acts upon a specific food; one cannot substitute for the other. A deficiency, shortage, or even the absence of one single enzyme can mean the difference between sickness and health.
Enzymes that end in -ase are named by the food substance they act upon. For example, with phosphorus the enzyme is called phosphatase; with sugar (sucrose) it is known as sucrase.
Pepsin is a vital digestive enzyme that breaks up the proteins of ingested food, splitting them into usable amino acids. Without pepsin, protein could not be used to build healthy skin, strong skeletal structure, rich blood supply, and strong muscles.
Rennin is a digestive enzyme that causes coagulation of milk, changing its protein, casein, into a usable form in the body. Rennin releases the valuable minerals from milk, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and iron, which are used by the body to stabilize the water balance, strengthen the nervous system, and produce strong teeth and bones.
Lipase splits fat, which is then utilized to nourish the skin cells, protect the body against bruises and blows, and ward off the entrance of infectious virus cells and allergic conditions.
Hydrochloric acid in the stomach works on tough foods such as fibrous meats, vegetables, and poultry. It digests protein, calcium, and iron. Without HCl, problems such as pernicious anemia, gastric carcinoma, congenital achlorhydria, and allergies can develop. Because stress, tension, anger, and anxiety before eating, as well as deficiencies of some vitamins (B complex primarily) and minerals, can all cause a lack of HCl, more of us are short of it than we realize. If you think that you have an overacid problem or heartburn, for which you are dosing yourself with an antacid such as Maalox, Pepsid Complete, Tums, Rolaids, or Alka-Seltzer, you are probably unaware that the symptoms of having too little acid are exactly the same as having too much, in which case the taking of antacids could be the worst possible thing for you to do.
Dr. Alan Nittler, author of A New Breed of Doctor, has stated emphatically that everyone over the age of forty should be using a HCl supplement.
Betaine HCl and glutamic acid HCl are the best forms of commercially available hydrochloric acid.
CAUTION: If you have an ulcer condition, consult your doctor before using these supplements.
11. Why You Need Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates, the scourge of misinformed dieters, are the main suppliers of the body’s energy. During digestion, starches and sugars, the principal kinds of carbohydrates, are broken down into glucose, better known as blood sugar. This blood sugar provides the essential energy for the brain and central nervous system.
You need carbohydrates in your daily diet so that vital tissue-building protein is not wasted for energy when it might be needed for repair. If you eat too many carbohydrates, more than can be converted into glucose or glycogen (which is stored in liver and muscles), the result, as we know all too well, is fat. When the body needs more fuel, the fat is converted back to glucose and you lose weight.
Don’t be too down on carbohydrates. They’re as important for good health as other nutrients—and gram for gram they have the same 4 calories as protein. Though no official requirement exists, a minimum of 50 g. daily is recommended to avoid ketosis, an acid condition of the blood that can happen when your own fat is used primarily for energy.
12. Name That Vitamin
Because at one time no one knew the chemical structure of vitamins and therefore could not give them a proper scientific name, most are designated by a letter of the alphabet. The following vitamins are known today; many more may yet be discovered: vitamin A (retinol, carotene); vitamin B-complex group: B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin, niacinamide), B4 (adenine), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), B10, B11 (growth factors), B12 (cobalamin, cyanocobalamin), B13 (orotic acid), B15 (pangamic acid), B17 (amygdalin), Bc (folic acid), Bt (carnitine), Bx or PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid); choline; inositol; C (ascorbic acid); D (calciferol, viosterol, ergosterol); E (tocopherol); F (fatty acids); G (riboflavin); H (biotin); K (menadione); L (necessary for lactation); M (folic acid); P (bioflavonoids); Pp (nicotinamide); P4 (troxerutin); T (growth-promoting substances); U (extracted from cabbage juice).
Japanese scientists at the Tokyo-based Institute of Physical and Chemical Research say that PQQ (pyrroloquinoline quinone), a substance discovered in 1979 and subsequently shown to play an important role in fertility in mice and possibly in humans, could be categorized as a vitamin. If so, it would be the first new vitamin identified in fifty-five years.
What is known about PQQ: It is an antioxidant and believed to belong to the B-complex family. The best natural source is natto, a pungent Japanese dish of fermented soybeans. It is also found in parsley, green tea, green peppers, kiwi fruit, and papaya. (Personal advice: If you want to add some PQQ to your diet naturally, I’d suggest you go the parsley, green tea, peppers, papaya, and kiwi route. Having tasted natto, it’s not something I’d recommend, unless you really enjoy a flavor with the pungency of well-worn socks.)
13. Name That Mineral
Although about eighteen known minerals are required for body maintenance and regulatory functions, recommended dietary allowances (RDA) have been established for only seven—calcium, iodine, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, selenium, and zinc.
The active minerals in your body are calcium, chlorine, chromium, cobalt, copper, fluorine, iodine, iron, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, sodium, sulfur, vanadium, and zinc. Trace minerals such as boron, silicon, nickel, and arsenic are also necessary for optimal growth and membrane function.
14. Your Body Needs Togetherness
As important as vitamins are, they can do nothing for you without minerals. I like to call minerals the Cinderellas of the nutrition world because, though very few people are aware of it, vitamins cannot function and cannot be assimilated without the aid of minerals. And though the body can synthesize some vitamins, it cannot manufacture a single mineral.
15. Name That Antioxidant
Antioxidants (good guys) are those enzymes, amino acids, supplements, vitamins, and minerals that protect our bodies from free radicals (bad guys), uncontrolled oxidations that damage cells and weaken the immune system. The body generates free radicals daily simply by burning fuel for energy. In other words, they’re a necessary but unwanted by-product. Various environmental and physical stresses—from air pollution, smoking, drinking alcohol, and disease to charcoal-broiled food, old age, and vigorous exercise—generate extra free radicals. To keep free radicals in check, our bodies produce different types of natural antioxidants. The most notable antioxidants are catalase, coenzyme-Q10, glutathione, melatonin, vitamin A, alpha- and beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, lipoic acid, selenium, superoxide dismutase (SOD), grape-seed and grape-skin extract, green and white tea extract, resveratrol, and zinc. Unfortunately, as we age, more free radicals accumulate and less natural antioxidants are produced, significantly increasing the risk of cancer and heart disease. Because of this, antioxidant-rich foods and supplements such as ginkgo biloba, grape-seed extract, green tea extract, isoflavones, lutein, and lycopene are needed in our diets, and the sooner they are included the greater the long-term benefits. (See Chapter VII.)
16. Name That Nutraceutical
Nutraceuticals are possibly the most exciting breakthrough in preventive medicine in decades. They are derived from natural products (food substances or parts of a food) that have proven therapeutic benefits similar to pharmaceuticals—such as isoflavones from soy, which have anticancerous properties; and hypericum and polyphenols in St. John’s wort, which have antidepressant properties. These naturally occurring compounds extracted from plants, algae, and other biological sources are concentrated into pills, powders, and capsules and are now being used to prevent numerous diseases as well as to treat common ailments—an area formerly ruled by prescription drugs. For example, antidepressants such as Paxil and Prozac, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), have been found to be matched in effectiveness by nutraceuticals such as 5-HTP (see section 81), which is made from a natural extract from the seeds of the Griffonia simplicifolia tree.
Nutraceuticals can also concentrate the best of food chemicals for daily consumption. Since only 9 percent of Americans eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, these supplements are playing an increasingly important role in our nation’s health. There are phytochemical-enriched foods, for example, snack bars fortified with soy phytochemicals (phytoestrogens), to alleviate symptoms such as hot flashes in menopausal women and to prevent prostate problems in men, nutraceutical-enriched margarine to lower blood serum cholesterol, as well as phytochemical-enriched candy for children who don’t care for vegetables. There are a lot more ways, these days, to get what’s good for you into you.
17. Name That Alternative Therapy
Just as no one supplement fits all, no one alternative therapy is suited to everyone. Today, dozens of alternatives to conventional medicine are available, gaining in acceptance and evidencing remarkable results. (To locate a nutritionally oriented doctor or alternative practitioner, see section 418.) Among the better known alternative therapies are:
Ayurveda One of the oldest recorded medical systems in the world, India’s ayurvedic medicine is still practiced in that country today. It has been dubbed the “mother of all healing” because of its profound influence on nearly all other medical systems. Ayurveda does not just treat the symptoms of a disease: The treatment must encompass the entire body—as well as mind, spirit, and lifestyle. The belief is that it’s as important to keep healthy people healthy as it is to cure the sick, and that early intervention—before symptoms appear—is essential to well-being. More than two thousand different preparations are used in ayurvedic medicine. Herbs are generally used only in combination with other herbs. In fact, ayurvedic healers use the whole plant, as opposed to the Western concept of extracting the one or two active ingredients, because they believe that every chemical in a plant is designed to work in harmony with the body. Ayurvedic medicine is designed to bolster and support all body systems.
Acupuncture An ancient Chinese healing medicine based on the belief that a life force, qi (pronounced chee) flows through fourteen channels in the body and can be stimulated by the insertion of needles into some of the body’s 360 acupuncture points to restore its energy balance. Acupuncture has been shown to have the ability in many instances to reverse temporary discomforts as well as organic disease. Acupuncturists also use herbs in healing therapies. In most states in the U.S., completion of a recognized program of study and a license to practice is required to become a doctor of acupuncture or a doctor of Oriental medicine. Naturopathic doctors (N.D.’s) are also licensed to practice acupuncture.
Chiropractic Chiropractic medicine focuses on spinal manipulations to achieve health. Many chiropractors (D.C.’s) also practice nutritional medicine. They have had four to five years of study in an accredited chiropractic school after a minimum of two years of undergraduate school and are licensed to work in all fifty states, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, most of Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. They cannot prescribe drugs or do surgery.
Herbal medicine The most widely used form of medicine for thousands of years and recognized as today’s leading trend in self-care. Herbal medicine is rooted in the same theory as establishment pharmacology. In fact, nearly 50 percent of all drugs commonly used and prescribed either are derived from a plant source or contain chemical imitations of a plant compound. Today, the efficacy of many herbal remedies is undisputed and well documented. (See Chapter IX.)
Homeopathy Based on the findings of Samuel Hahnemann, homeopathy uses medicines to stimulate the body’s natural defense mechanisms and is based on the premise that “like cures like.” For instance, a substance that can trigger symptoms in a healthy individual when taken in large doses can cure similar symptoms in a sick person when taken in extremely small doses. The homeopathic approach to treating illness—viewing the individual (mentally, physically, emotionally) as a whole—is founded on the understanding that symptoms are an expression of the body’s attempt to correct an imbalance and restore health. Rather than suppressing these symptoms, homeopathic medicines (which come from naturally occurring plant, mineral, or animal substances and are nontoxic) act quickly to stimulate and regulate the body’s defenses—with no side effects when used as directed (see section 215). There is no licensing at this writing for the practice of homeopathic medicine. A physician (M.D., D.O., N.D., or D.C.) can become a doctor of homeopathy (D.Ht.) after six weeks of study.
Naturopathic Naturopathic medicine encompasses herbal medicine, massage, acupuncture, and a broad spectrum of other alternative treatments. Naturopathic doctors (N.D.’s) are required to pass a national licensing exam after completing four years in a naturopathic medical college.
Orthomolecular medicine An alternative therapy that aims to provide optimal levels of substances normally found in the body through nutrients. Aside from using various supplements to allow the body to produce the biochemicals necessary for health, orthomolecular medicine also involves the removal of harmful substances such as drugs, pollutants, and allergens from the body. The majority, though not all, of orthomolecular practitioners are M.D.’s.
Osteopathy Osteopathic physicians (D.O.’s) have the same medical education as an M.D. and are licensed to do everything an M.D. can do, including surgery. The big difference is that unlike traditional (allopathic) M.D.’s, who tend to specialize in certain diseases or organs, osteopaths are holistic in their approach to healing and, as a rule, are far better versed in preventive nutrition.
DID YOU KNOW?
It is impossible to sustain life without all the essential vitamins.
The body can synthesize some vitamins but cannot manufacture a single mineral.
A deficiency in even one vitamin can endanger the whole human body.
Excerpted from Earl Mindell's New Vitamin Bible by Mindell, Earl Copyright © 2011 by Mindell, Earl. Excerpted by permission.
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