I divide my supplementation program into preventive, performance and brain nutrients. The preventive supplements, as the name implies, supply nutrients that are likely lacking in my diet. Mainstream nutrition authorities often suggest that you avoid using food supplements and rely on a balanced diet containing a large variety of foods to make sure you get all required nutrients’at least five servings a day of fruits and vegetables, with the optimal being about 11 servings of fruits and veggies.
That’s good advice because those foods supply nutrients that if not consumed can lead to cardiovascular disease and cancer, the two leading causes of death. The trouble is, many people don’t follow anything like a balanced diet, even if they think they do, judging by surveys showing that about 90 percent of people don’t have even one serving a day of fruits or vegetables.
While supplements can’t totally substitute for nutrients found in food, they’re without doubt better than experiencing the inevitable problems that will result if you don’t get those same nutrients from any source. Besides, you can’t get therapeutic levels of some nutrients from food alone without overeating, which leads to other problems, such as obesity. A notable example is vitamin E. The best food sources are vegetable oils, which are high in calories because of their rich fat content. Studies show that the true health benefits ofvitamin E start at 400 units daily, an amount impossible to get just from eating food, even items listed as “rich in vitamin E.”
Complicating the picture is the fact that vitamin E isn’t a single vitamin but a complex consisting of four tocopherols and four tocotrienols. The most familiar, and the one most people think about when they think about vitamin E, is alpha-tocopherol, the most biologically active form and the one with the greatest absorption and retention in the body. Other members of the vitamin E family, however, also offer considerable health benefits. For example, gamma-tocopherol prevents the formation of noxious free radicals, which are damaging by-products of oxygen metabolism, far more effectively than alpha-tocopherol. Some scientists suggest that the gamma version is also more effective at preventing cardiovascular disease and prostate cancer than its alpha cousin.
I use a vitamin E supplement that contains all the vitamin E forms, including the tocotrienols. I take it once in the morning and again at night. That gives me 800 units of the mixed tocopherols, and I get another 400 from other supplements, which gets me to a daily average of about 1,200 units.
A key aspect of nutrient supplementation involves synergy. You may have read or heard about studies showing that vitamin E didn’t offer much health protection, but those studies are seriously flawed (using a complete vitamin E supplement that includes the entire E complex would help improve them). That’s because nutrients must work together to provide health benefits. For example, in the course of preventing damage from free radicals, which are single, unpaired electrons, antioxidant supplements such as vitamins E and C neutralize the effects of rampant free radical-activity by donating an electron. The problem is that the former antioxidant nutrient becomes a free radical itself, having donated an electron. The cure is having another antioxidant in the vicinity that can ‘repair’ the original antioxidant. Enter coenzyme Q10 and lipoic acid, both of which stabilize vitamins E and C, thus recirculating the antioxidants and extending their activity.
CoQ10 and lipoic acid preserve the vital functioning of cellular mitochondria, where fat is burned and energy is produced in the cell. For that reason, I take 100 to 200 milligrams of CoQ10 and 300 milligrams of lipoic acid daily. The lipoic acid I divide into two doses, taking the first 100 milligrams with 1,000 milligrams a day of acetyl L-carnitine, another brain-protecting nutrient, on an empty stomach, first thing in the morning. The reasoning here is animal-based research showing that the combination may protect or even regenerate ‘burned-out’ brain mitochondria.