We choose footwear of the right size, or a suit that fits without a crease, or a ring with our favorite gem stone. As far as micronutrients and vitamins are concerned, we very often take a standard mixture and think that we have done enough for our body. However, the body of each person has a unique biochemical composition, and all of us have different levels of health, lead a different lifestyle, and, consequently, have different needs regarding microelements.
Now we have an opportunity to take vitamins based on our individual needs. Antistress AG, the leading manufacturer of micronutrient supplements in Switzerland, has created Burgerstein Microcare* a unique assortment of granules containing nutrients and secondary plant extracts.
Rainer Arendt, MD, a cardiologist and an expert in anti-ageing and anti-stress therapy, explained to our SH reporter what is happening inside the body on a cellular level.
– Dr. Arendt, there is a belief that if your diet includes lots of fruit and vegetables, that’s enough, and no complexes or dietary supplements are needed.
– Indeed, if your diet is well-balanced and contains energy and micronutrients corresponding to your personal and individual needs, there is often no need for dietary supplements. However, food should be of premium quality, fresh, seasonal and processed as little as possible. Often the quality of fruits and vegetables can be determined from their appearance, color, flavor and origin. Unfortunately, foods available from supermarkets have very often been processed and contain only reduced quantities of useful substances.
But, besides food, lifestyle is also very important for a healthy metabolism.
Of course, if a person leads an unhealthy lifestyle and sticks to an unhealthy diet, dietary supplements will not compensate for the damage done to his health. Still, they will mitigate against the negative factors and will help when the diet does not satisfy all bodily needs. By all means, I believe that the best choice is a well-balanced diet (e.g., the Mediterranean diet) reinforced with vitamins and other micronutrients as appropriate for special situations and special needs, e.g. during pregnancy, or in times of intense physical or emotional demands. In such cases, one should consult one’s doctor or pharmacist and select the right complex.
– Do you mean that a regular vitamin supplement is not enough?
– The needs of every person are unique and depend on many factors, such as sex, age, lifestyle, bad habits, diet, chronic diseases, genetic peculiarities, etc., and a standard polyvitamin complex is a product containing a fixed combination of vitamins. However, complexes can now be formulated based on the needs of a particular patient. They contain the exact quantities, as chosen by the specialist, of the required elements and can help compensate for or prevent a deficiency of nutrients in the body.
– Which vitamins, for example, does a smoker need?
– I would say that smokers certainly need more vitamin C than non-smokers. But smokers should be careful with unbalanced, high dosage-supplements of some antioxidant vitamins: for example, vitamins A or E. Generally, high dosage-supplementation should always be administered and controlled by a specialist.
When choosing micronutrients, a person should take into consideration all factors and, when the life circumstances change, the body needs to readapt. Moreover, it is also important to make sure that nutrients are well assimilated by the body. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. When a person does not have enough balanced and healthy bacteria in the colon, even the best diet will produce an insignificant effect as the required micronutrients will not be assimilated. Furthermore, the wrong intestinal bacteria can transform even good food and micronutrients into harmful metabolic products.
Our colon contains approximately three to five kilos of bacteria representing 90% of the cells in our body. They can influence genes, activating some genes and leaving others in «sleep mode”
These processes are studied in epigenetics, the science of environmental regulation of the human genome. At birth, we receive a certain set of bacteria from our mother, which is extended continuously as new bacteria come into our body with the food we eat or from the places we visit … As a result, everyone has a unique, personal set of bacteria.
Ilya Mechnikov, a Russian scientist, was the first to pay special attention to intestinal flora, and he believed human ageing and death to be premature. His work has been reconsidered in recent years. We cannot change the genes, but we can influence the way they work.
– And can laboratory tests now reveal what the body lacks?
– Yes. Indeed, we can discover a lot, although not everything. For example, we can measure the length of telomeres that determine the rate of ageing. We can also measure the level of several micronutrients, such as vitamin D and iron.
A very exciting interaction between nutrients, vitamins, trace minerals and useful bacteria is happening in our body. All this has an impact upon our life and our health. For example, useful bacteria produce serotonin and dopamine from food, both of which are very important for a sense of wellbeing and a good mood.
When you change your diet, the set of bacteria also changes. In this way, the saying «we are what we eat» really is true. However, we are also what our bacteria produce. That is why it is better to adopt a complex approach when adjusting your lifestyle, your set of micronutrients or your eating habits.
– Should vitamins be taken at a particular time of the day?
– Yes, sometimes this is important. For example, vitamin D is produced by the body when exposed to sunlight, with its production up in the morning and down in the evening, so it is better to take it during the first half of the day. It is known that vitamin D is not as much a vitamin as a steroid hormone that is produced by the body when inactive and which is then activated in several steps, catalysed by sunlight. Beside its important role in calcium and bone-metabolism, vitamin D influences a person’s mood and memory, reinforces the immune system and works as an anti-inflammatory agent. When tuberculosis patients came to Switzerland in the 1920s and 1930s, their treatment included, inter alia, sun baths. And those patients who spent a lot of time in the open air and who went skiing tended to survive.
There are also other vitamins that you’d be better off taking in the morning – for example, high doses of vitamin C, or group B vitamins which have a stimulating effect. And minerals with relaxing properties, such as magnesium, can be taken in the evening. Tailor-made formulations address, inter alia, these issues.
Food can reinforce the effect of micronutrients. For example, fat-soluble substances (such as vitamin D, vitamin E, carotenoids, fatty acids, or curcuma essence) are absorbed much better when taken with high-fat food.
It is of the utmost importance that micronutrient products are formulated correctly. The emphasis should lie on the active ingredients, and on their quality and high bioavailability. Artificial components should be avoided.
– However, it is known that not all minerals and vitamins can be combined …
– Indeed, there are combinations to be avoided, mainly if therapeutic dosages are applied. However, most commercially available products do not contain such combinations. Based on my observations, caution should be exercised when taking vitamin D in combination with calcium. If you take calcium, you should avoid vitamin D in high concentrations.
Please remember that certain foods slow down the absorption of trace elements. A typical example is iron with whole-grain food, tea or coffee. However, certain combinations are not only acceptable but even desirable. For example, vitamin C enhances the absorption of iron.
– Is there a risk of overdose?
– Overdosing can be an issue with high doses of fat-soluble vitamins, as vitamin A, D, or E. However, most micronutrients have a rather wide therapeutic range and can be taken without any risk. The best thing is to take a laboratory test and consult your doctor to make sure you get all that you need in the right quantities. A tailor-made formulation is the best solution.
Dr. Rainer Arendt
is the leading consulting doctor at Double Check. He has developed several anti-ageing programs. Dr. Arendt studied medicine at the University of Bonn, was a NATO research fellow in psychopharmacology at Tufts Medical Center, New England (Boston), and has worked in the field of neurophar-macology and stress at the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry (Munich).
His research and clinical practice are focused on lifestyle-related disorders, prevention and regenerative medicine.