To help you develop a more effective vitamin/mineral regimen, we enlisted the help of two experts in nutrition — Derrick M. DeSilva, Jr., M.D., and Melissa Diane Smith, co-author of several books on nutrition and health. Here they outline their own personal regimens and offer tips on how to maximize the efficacy of the vitamins and minerals you take, as well as information on supplements you could be taking in the future.
What vitamin or mineral will we see gain more respectability and/or widespread use in the next few years?
Derrick DeSilva: I see widespread use of CoQ10 in the future. This nutrient has so many different functions; it is a potent antioxidant, and we all need to have an antioxidant every day. It is also the fuel or energy for the cell. This is one component I think too many people overlook. The cell must have energy to run; without cellular energy the body will be tired. Because of its numerous beneficial uses, the science will show us that CoQ10 is a must for all of us.
Melissa Diane Smith: Vitamin E. The evidence is overwhelming that supplementation with 400 IU of natural vitamin E (indicated as "d," as in "d-alpha," on the label) helps prevent heart disease. No matter how well we eat, we can't get 400 IU from our diets alone, so we all need supplements. More and more cardiologists are getting caught up in the research on vitamin E, and they're being won over to take supplements. It's only a matter of time before this information reaches consumers who haven't heard about this heart-protecting vitamin.
How can people maximize the efficacy of the vitamins/minerals they take?
DeSilva: If we have the correct balance of bacteria in our system, then our GI tract can absorb all we take and maximize all our supplements' effects.
Smith: It's important to take vitamin and mineral supplements with food, especially something that has some protein in it, such as nuts or eggs. Also be sure to wash supplements down with water, not alcohol or coffee.
What is the one vitamin or mineral you could not do without?
DeSilva: The one I cannot do without is CoQ10. Beyond what I have already mentioned, CoQ10 also stabilizes cell membranes. If the membrane is stable, the cell will be less irritable. This is one of the big reasons for cardiac arrhythmias (heart irregularities). The cell membrane is not able to do what it is supposed to do and cannot function at peak levels if the correct nutrients are not there.
Smith: For me personally, zinc is by far the most important supplement. I have high individual needs for zinc, and supplementing with it helped rebuild my immune system to overcome chronic fatigue syndrome.
What is your daily vitamin/mineral regimen?
DeSilva: My daily supplements include a multivitamin (vitamin/mineral), green formula, grapeseed extract, probiotic, CoQ10, mixed oils (DHA, EPA, GLA), prostate formula (I'm 43 years old now), schisandra (liver cleanser), guggul (cholesterol-lowering) and lots of filtered water.
Smith: I essentially build my own multivitamin/mineral each day by taking antioxidants (vitamins A, C and E, selenium and zinc), B-complex vitamins, and a multimineral without iron and copper. I also supplement with essential fatty acids in the form of black currant oil and fish oils, and with alpha-lipoic acid, a vitamin-like antioxidant important for energy production and blood sugar balance.
Derrick M. DeSilva, Jr., M.D., is an internist in Edison, N.J. He also serves as president of the American Neutraceutical Association; he is on the teaching faculty at JFK Medical Center and is on the attending staff of Raritan Bay Medical Center in Perth Amboy, N.J.
Melissa Diane Smith is a Tucson, Ariz.-based nutritionist who specializes in individualized diet and supplement programs and consumer education. She's the co-author of several books, including All About Vitamin E (Avery) and Why Am I Always So Tired? (HarperSanFrancisco).