As you know I am very cautious about supplements, vitamins and minerals. The reason is that the research show taking a vitamin or supplement is simply not natural. Our bodies have been around for ages eating natural foods from the environment and isolating one or two molecules from foods is, as it turns, simply not the same and often quite detrimental.
With just a couple of exceptions, your nutrients need to come from natural foods. This is a tried and true method that has worked for many of supercultures around the world, such as the Okinawans, the Kuna, the Ikarians, the Tarahumara, the Hunza – the list goes on and on. These native peoples have proven time and again that superlative health comes from natural foods, abundant exercise and other common sense lifestyle factors and not from a pill.
Here are just a few examples:
- Multivitamin. Mulivitamins have done very poorly in virtually all the studies. For example, there is little evidence that it protects from cancer. However, there is one suprising area where the evidence for multivitamins looks good: the brain. Several studies have shown that multivitamins can actually boost the IQ of children.  Furthermore, there is a study  showing that many of the vitamins are associated with improved memory and mental scores. I will let the abstract in this study speak for itself: “Several significant associations (P < 0.05) were observed between cognition and concurrent vitamin status, including better abstraction performance with higher biochemical status and dietary intake of thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and folate and better visuospatial performance with higher plasma ascorbate. Concurrent dietary protein in 1986 correlated significantly with memory scores, and serum albumin or transferrin with memory, visuospatial, or abstraction scores. Higher past intake of vitamins E, A, B-6, and B-12 was related to better performance on visuospatial recall and/or abstraction tests. Use of self-selected vitamin supplements was associated with better performance on a difficult visuospatial test and an abstraction test”. The reason for this are many: the brain is a huge nutrient and energy hog. It requires, among other things, lots of the B vitamins. As people age, they often lose GI acidity and the ability to digest certain vitamins and minerals. A good multivitamin seems to be a good insurance policy and has done quite well in the studies.
- Vitamin D. This is one of the rare supplements that has nothing but good news coming from the laboratories. It is now a proven cancer fighter and heart protectors. In two recent meta-analyses, for example, it was associated with very significant lower colon cancer risk. The reason that this is so significant is that colon cancer is one of the top 3 killers.  And it very definitely lowers risk for heart disease. Another recent meta-analysis by lead researcher Edward Giovannucci look at the Health Professionals Follow-up Study and found that there was a huge 2.42 times greater risk of heart attack amount those with low Vitamin D levels. Even those with intermediate levels had about 50% greater risk! This means that Vitamin D can help with the #1 and #3 killers and deserves to be in everyone’s daily regimen. Better yet, it does not seem to have a tight therapeutic range like some of the other vitamins and minerals. Zinc, for example, needs to be taken < about 200-300% of RDA. Folic Acid appears to have an even tighter range. Vitamin C, above about 500% of RDA can harden arteries. In the case of Vitamin D, though, most experts feel that 1000-2000 IU should be taken daily along with 15 minutes of sun exposure three times per week. For those who have had a lot of sun damage, you may not want to incorporate the last part of that advice. But, regardless, make sure you get your Vitamin D.
- Zinc. Most guys on this site eat very little red meat and train pretty hard. If so, it’s probably a good idea to take a little supplemental zinc, about 100-200% of RDA. Adequate zinc is important for immunity, testosterone production and estrogen control. I believe it is one of the factors keeping me cold-free. CAUTION: Do not go much past the RDA for Zinc. See this link for The Dangers of Excess Zinc Intake.
Magnesium. This, like Vitamin D, is another must take supplement unless you’re eating extremely well. Magnesium helps you sleep better, decreases migraine frequency for migraine sufferers, aids in glucose regulation, prevents insulin resistance , assists in protein synthesis and energy production , lowers risk of diabetes  and blood pressure  and decreases cardiovascular risk . Again, you just want to make sure that you have enough: low magnesium levels are bad enough and can lead to the opposite of all I wrote above.And keep in mind that as you age, the kidneys excrete more Magnesium than during your youthful days. It is suprisingly easy to become deficient in this all important molecule which is used in literally hundreds of bodily systems and reactions.
- Folic Acid. Adequate folic acid is critical to control homocysteine. As we age, many of us lose our ability to process folic acid (and the B vitamins) and so homocysteine levels slowly rise destroying our heart, brain and sex life. However, too much folic acid has been found to be associated with an increased risk of GI cancers and the problem is that we supplement folic acid in cereals and white bread products. So, actually, many people have been getting too much folic acid. However, I’m assuming most Peak Testosterone readers eat well, thus getting a lot of folic acid, and hopefully taking a multivitamin per #1 above. But, if none of the above applies, you may want to supplement with Folic Acid.
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5) Am Fam Physician, 1998, 58:1323-30
7) American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Feb 2007, 32(3):210-216