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Supplements Simplified - Find The Best Supplement For You
When you’re looking to support a particular health goal with vitamins, such as immune function, energy, cognitive function, sleep or beauty, the world of supplementation can feel like a minefield of confusing jargon to try to navigate.
From the dosage, form and the manufacture of them, to the quality and the absorption of the ingredients and their health claims, there’s an overwhelming choice of vitamins and minerals on the market. Trying to figure out which vitamins are the right one for your needs in a confusing market can prevent you ever embarking on a vitamin routine. But don’t let the industry jargon deter you. This article simplifies the world of supplements to help you understand why our bodies need daily vitamin and mineral support, and the important role they play in our biology, whilst helping you decide which ones best suit your needs.
In an ideal world, we’d be able to obtain all the nutrition we need from food. Food always comes first. Nutrition is the foundation for the creation of new cells and hormones in the body and your body can only use what you give it. Not only are you a result of what you eat but also what you absorb.
We all know that supplements are in no way a substitute for a healthy, balanced diet but very few of us are lucky enough to get all our bodies nutrients from food alone, we often need an extra helping hand to complement our nutrition especially when leading a busy, fast paced lifestyle where cooking a daily nutritious meal can be challenging.
It is not always easy to get freshly made organic foods bursting with nutrition. Sometimes we are left with no choice but to consume food with questionable nutrition content such as packaged, ready-made or processed plane food when we’re travelling.
Supplements provide a concentrated source of nutrients which we can consume in addition to a healthy diet to provide our body with vital substances that may otherwise be lacking.
You can think of supplements as an ‘insurance policy’ for the days when you are on the go and too busy to eat all of your recommended servings of fruit and vegetables.
There is an extensive list of nutrients to consider taking from vitamins, minerals, herbal botanicals to live bacteria cultures and enzymes. The first step to knowing which supplement is right for you is by defining your goal and current nutrients that may be lacking in your lifestyle.
What Micronutrients Does My Body Need And What Can’t It Make Itself?
Although your body makes many of the nutrients it needs to carry out its functions (known as non-essential nutrients), some nutrients can’t be made rapidly enough, or at all, to meet daily needs (these are called essential nutrients). They must be obtained from outside sources such as our diet or supplements.
Whereas the body can create vitamin D (from sunlight) and vitamin A (from consuming enough orange coloured vegetables) it can’t produce the nutrients; Omega 3 essential fatty acids, B vitamins, Vitamin C and E, as well minerals.
Two forms of vitamins exist, ‘fat soluble vitamins’ including A, D, E and K and ‘water’ soluble vitamins, including C and B complex vitamins. In addition, your body needs minerals to function properly which it can’t produce. There are 16 essential minerals that optimum nutrition requires. Firstly, ‘macro minerals’; sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium and sulphur, are needed in larger amounts by the body. Secondly ‘trace minerals’; Iron, Zinc, selenium, copper, fluoride, chromium, molybdenum and manganese are needed in smaller amounts. Minerals are often known as electrolytes as they help to regulate nerve and muscle function and maintain water balance.
Now that we know what micronutrients are, the next hurdle is understanding what our bodies need depending on what goal we are trying to achieve.
Best Supplements For Skin
It’s true that your skin is one of the best indications of your overall health, so if you are suffering from dry, dull or problematic skin it is possible your diet has a role to play in this.
The vitamin C glow is real! This is because it plays a vital role in the body’s natural collagen synthesis1. In addition to this, vitamin C is also one of the most potent antioxidants and therefore helps fight against free radicals our skin is exposed to every day.
You can definitely get vitamin C from your diet - rich sources include bell peppers, kiwi and citrus fruits. However, if you find you are not eating your 5 a day every day a supplement may be a good back up.
One of the most interesting and upcoming areas of research is the role our gut microbiome has to play in relating to skin health. If your skin concern is related to eczema or acne, then a supplement containing live bacteria is one to consider adding to your daily regimen.
One study assessing the efficacy of lactobacillus bacterial strain in 230 subjects with eczema found a greater reduction in the severity of the condition and symptoms compared to placebo2.
You will be happy to hear that innovative vitamin companies like JetFuel, are formulating powdered live bacterial cultures into a mixed blend of vitamins and botanicals to tackle different health conditions such as immunity, digestion and circulation, making it easier for you to drink your vitamins for multiple health functions in one glass.
ZInc is one of the essential minerals to our body that is sometimes overlooked. Most commonly found in milk, red meat and cashews - it is a nutrient which many people are borderline deficient in. The National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) found that 7% of men and 8% of women were found to have intakes of zinc below than the lower reference nutrient intake3.
We know that acne is a multifaceted condition, but some evidence suggests that taking a zinc supplement can improve acne, when compared to a placebo. For example, in a double-blind investigation of 54 patients suffering from acne, the effect of 0.6 g of oral zinc sulphate daily versus placebo was studied. During the active treatment period of 6 weeks, the acne improved by about one-third, as rated with a score system4.
Public Health England recommends that everyone should supplement with 10 micrograms of vitamin D daily. This is because you may not be getting enough vitamin D from sunlight, particularly during the winter months5. This is particularly important in the current climate as vitamin D has a pivotal role to play in immunity.
There have been multiple cross-sectional studies associating lower levels of vitamin D with increased infection. One report studied almost 19,000 subjects between 1988 and 1994. Individuals with lower vitamin D levels (<30 ng/ml) were more likely to self-report a recent upper respiratory tract infection than those with sufficient levels, even after adjusting for variables including season, age, gender, body mass and race6.
It is no secret that vitamin C is crucial for the normal function of the immune system. Vitamin C supports epithelial barrier function against pathogens and promotes the oxidant scavenging activity of the skin, thereby potentially protecting against environmental oxidative stress.
Vitamin C promotes healthy immune function in a variety of ways; in particular it promotes the killing of microbes by increasing the number of fighter cells within our body7.
Energy And Performance Supplements
B Vitamins is an umbrella term given to a group of 8 water soluble vitamins. There are several different ways in which B vitamins play a role in energy and performance, for example biotin contributes to normal metabolism of the foods we eat, while vitamin B2 helps to reduce tiredness and fatigue by actively playing a direct role in converting foods we eat into ATP (the body’s energy molecule).
It’s no secret that caffeine is a natural stimulant and helps us all get a spring in our step in the morning. Guarana is a plant naturally rich in caffeine and for this reason may be a good addition to your supplement regime if you need some help in the energy department.
One study assessing the effects of Guarana on breast cancer patients found that 50mg of Guarana twice daily helped improve fatigue over a 21 day period8.
Relaxation And Sleep Supplements
Research indicates supplemental magnesium can improve sleep quality, especially in people with poor sleep. Magnesium can also help insomnia that's linked to the sleep disorder restless-leg syndrome. Stress reduction and mood stabilization. Magnesium increases GABA, which encourages relaxation as well as sleep9.
5-HTP is made by the body from the amino acid tryptophan, which is then changed into the neurotransmitter known as serotonin. Serotonin is often referred to as the ‘happy hormone’, and is also involved in sleep induction as it is a precursor to melatonin, the main hormone involved in sleep.
The effects on sleep of increasing brain serotonin with 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP), the immediate precursor of serotonin, were studied on twelve normal subjects. In each subject, rapid eye movement (REM) sleep increased from 5 to 53% of placebo baseline10.
The simple act of a herbal tea before bed can certainly help you to nod off and mentally prepare you for a good nights’ sleep.
A study of 80 women with poor sleep quality evaluated the effects of chamomile tea on sleep quality. Compared with the control group, the experimental group demonstrated significantly lower scores of physical‐symptoms‐related sleep inefficiency11.
Gut Health Supplements
A positively diverse gut microbiome is key to digestive health - the type and number of friendly bacteria has a huge impact on your gut health as well as your overall health.
A meta-analysis of 20 randomised control trials including 1404 subjects found an improvement in IBS symptoms with administration of friendly bacteria. Although the exact mechanisms of how these mighty bacteria work is still being studied, the proposed mechanisms of actions include stabilization the intestinal barrier function as well as decreasing gut inflammatory markers12.
We all know sitting down is the new smoking and if you’re worried about the impact this is having on your circulation, there are supplements you can take to help support healthy blood flow.
If you are looking to boost your body’s circulation, Fruitflow® II WSTC (Water Soluble Tomato Concentrate) is an ingredient to consider as it helps maintain normal platelet aggregation contributing to healthy blood flow. Fruitflow® is the first European Food Safety Authority-approved natural cardio-protective functional ingredient13.
Pycnogenol® is a flavonoid extracted from Maritime Pine Bark. It has been shown to possess antioxidant properties. A vast number of pharmacological and clinical studies indicate that Pycnogenol® supports blood circulation and bears various favourable health benefits for the cardiovascular system, specifically by increasing the oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC)14.
Ginkgo is also worth considering to support your circulation. Ginkgo biloba is a large tree with fan-shaped leaves that have radiating veins. It seems to improve blood flow to capillaries throughout the body including in the CNS, eyes, ears, extremities, and other tissues. Ginkgo leaf likely improves circulation by both decreasing blood viscosity and affecting vascular smooth muscle15.
5 Great Advantages Of Taking Vitamins And Food Supplements:
- We're easily able to manipulate our nutrient intake, knowing exactly how much we are taking; however, supplements should obviously not be offered in place of food,
- We can use nutrients in isolation for a specific reason which is impossible to do when relying solely on food,
- We can take a larger dose of a nutrient without having to eat a meal - some supplements are suitable for taking on an empty stomach,
- They are compact, allowing us the flexibility to carry them in our bag rather than the original food source e.g. one dose of Vitamin C, 125mg provides the same amount of Vitamin C as in 5 oranges. Few would want to carry 5 oranges let alone eat them at once.
- You can carry supplements through airports and abroad when you may not be able to transport therapeutic foods. Not many countries let you take food across the border. How do we know the quality of the food we may find on the other side?
Finding quality - it’s not what you take it’s what you absorb that matters
Remember, not all supplements are equal. It’s not what you consume that’s important but what your body absorbs.
The Physician's Desk Reference states that 85-90% of nutrients in liquid supplements are absorbed in 22 to 30 seconds. Compare this to hours it takes for the nutrients in pills to be absorbed by the body. Moreover, it has been demonstrated that only 10%-20% of the nutrients in capsules and pills actually are absorbed. The benefits of drinking vitamins containing 18 active ingredients compared to having to swallow 18 individual capsules means liquid vitamins make for an easy to stick to vitamin regimen, something many people struggle to follow.
There is a massive difference in the way vitamins are produced, and the nutrient forms used.
Some lower quality supplements may provide nutrients in less absorbable forms which have lower efficacy. Whereas, premium-quality supplements provide nutrients that are most useful to the body and easily absorbed, as well as guaranteeing the nutrient quality at the end of the shelf life. JetFuel takes pride in the fact that all of our vitamin, mineral and botanical formulations are British Supplements manufactured in the UK.
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1 Pullar JM, Carr AC, Vissers MCM. The Roles of Vitamin C in Skin Health. Nutrients. 2017; 9(8):866.
2 Viljanen, M., Savilahti, E., Haahtela, T., Juntunen‐Backman, K., Korpela, R., Poussa, T., Tuure, T. and Kuitunen, M. (2005) Probiotics in the treatment of atopic eczema/dermatitis syndrome in infants: a double‐blind placebo‐controlled trial. Allergy 60, 494–500.
4 Göransson, K., Lidén, S., & Odsell, L. (1978). Oral zinc in acne vulgaris: a clinical and methodological study. Acta dermato-venereologica, 58(5), 443–448.
6 Aranow C. (2011). Vitamin D and the immune system. Journal of investigative medicine : the official publication of the American Federation for Clinical Research, 59(6), 881–886. https://doi.org/10.2310/JIM.0b013e31821b8755
7 EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA). (2010). Scientific Opinion on the substantiation of health claims related to vitamin C and reduction of tiredness and fatigue (ID 139, 2622), contribution to normal psychological functions (ID 140), regeneration of the reduced form of vitamin E (ID 202), contribution to normal energy‐yielding metabolism (ID 2334, 3196), maintenance of the normal function of the immune system (ID 4321) and protection of DNA, proteins and lipids from oxidative damage (ID 3331) pursuant to Article 13 (1) of Regulation (EC) No 1924 .... EFSA Journal, 8(10), 1815.
8 de Oliveira Campos, M. P., Riechelmann, R., Martins, L. C., Hassan, B. J., Casa, F. B. A., & Giglio, A. D. (2011). Guarana (Paullinia cupana) improves fatigue in breast cancer patients undergoing systemic chemotherapy. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 17(6), 505-512.
9 Nielsen, F. H., Johnson, L. K., & Zeng, H. (2010). Magnesium supplementation improves indicators of low magnesium status and inflammatory stress in adults older than 51 years with poor quality sleep.
10 Wyatt, R. J., Zarcone, V., Engelman, K., Dement, W. C., Snyder, F., & Sjoerdsma, A. (1971). Effects of 5-hydroxytryptophan on the sleep of normal human subjects. Electroencephalography and clinical neurophysiology, 30(6), 505-509.
11 Chang, S. M., & Chen, C. H. (2016). Effects of an intervention with drinking chamomile tea on sleep quality and depression in sleep disturbed postnatal women: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of advanced nursing, 72(2), 306-315.
12 Kelesidis, T., & Pothoulakis, C. (2012). Efficacy and safety of the probiotic Saccharomyces boulardii for the prevention and therapy of gastrointestinal disorders. Therapeutic Advances in Gastroenterology, 111–125. https://doi.org/10.1177/1756283X11428502
13 O’Kennedy, N., Raederstorff, D. & Duttaroy, A.K. Fruitflow®: the first European Food Safety Authority-approved natural cardio-protective functional ingredient. Eur J Nutr 56, 461–482 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00394-016-1265-2
14 Watson, R.R. Pycnogenol® and cardiovascular health. Evid-Based-Integrative-Med 1, 27–32 (2004). https://doi.org/10.2165/01197065-200301010-00006
15 Diamond, B. J., Shiflett, S. C., Feiwel, N., Matheis, R. J., Noskin, O., Richards, J. A., & Schoenberger, N. E. (2000). Ginkgo biloba extract: mechanisms and clinical indications. Archives of physical medicine and rehabilitation, 81(5), 668-678.