Vitamins: Benefits for Specific Diseases
By: Dr. George Obikoya
Vitamins have been proven to protect us from a number of different diseases. Many of the beneficial effects of vitamins on our health have been linked to their antioxidant properties. The effects of vitamins on some of the major prevalent diseases are discussed in this article.
Of all the chronic diseases in which excess oxidative stress has been implicated, cardiovascular disease (CVD) has the strongest supporting evidence for the beneficial role of antioxidants. Additionally, the use of Folic Acid may help lower homocysteine levels, which plays a large role in the homocysteine balance effect. When the body's homocysteine levels get too high, folic acid is low. Daily supplementation with folic acid, which is 100% complete at 400 mcgs, lowers homocysteine levels and your risk of heart disease. When you think about it, it makes sense that the leading cause of death is heart disease after you stop and look at just how poor our diets are and how so few people get enough antioxidants and folic acid. After every type of cancer (the #2 killer), heart disease (the #1) kills more people than the other 8 of the top 10 killers COMBINED. People may worry about flying in an airplane, or being murdered, but when you look at the numbers, heart disease is seven times more likely to kill you than a fatal accident.
Other evidence for antioxidants comes from the oxidation of LDL-C. This may be a key step in the development of atherosclerosis, and atherosclerosis and hypertension are known risk factors in the development of heart disease. Thus, antioxidants are potentially useful in preventing or delaying the development of atherosclerosis, and in preventing heart disease. If you are looking for an excellent source of antioxidants in your diet, a blend of vitamin C as ascorbic acid and sodium ascorbate can provide 100% of your daily need in just 60 mgs.
A high intake of carotenoids has been shown to be protective against heart disease in several population-based studies.1,2 In humans, carotenoids play two primary roles: All exert antioxidant activity, but some are also converted into vitamin A. CoQ-10 helps prevent heart disease, boosts cellular energy production thereby improving heart function, and prevents the formation of free radicals to help protect your body cells.
Vitamin B12 is required for the normal activity of nerve cells, and works with folate and vitamin B6 to lower blood levels of homocysteine, a chemical in the blood that is thought to contribute to heart disease. A good liquid multivitamin will contain all of the previously mentioned substances.
Research studies suggest that coenzyme Q-10 has increased the survival of patients with cancers of the pancreas, lung, colon, rectum, and prostate.
You can reduce your risk of cancer by taking Calcium. Consuming this mineral can actually cut your risk of colon cancer. In your digestive system, calcium binds with bile acids and fatty acids and as a result prevents their absorption. Researchers now think this in turn hinders the formation of colon cancer cells.
Selenium boosts your body's production of glutathione peroxidase, a potent antioxidant enzyme. Supplemental selenium reduces the risk of some cancers. Carotenoids, Vitamin D and Vitamin E are all known to have anticancer properties. Respiratory Diseases: Because of the widespread effects of oxidation in the body, it is possible that antioxidants protect against a wide array of other ailments, such as certain respiratory disorders.
Asthma is characterized by chronic airway inflammation. The generation of oxygen free radicals by activated inflammatory cells produces many of the pathophysiologic changes associated with asthma and may contribute to its pathogenesis. Therefore, antioxidant nutrients may play a role in the prevention and treatment of asthma. Vitamin C is the major antioxidant present in the surface of the lung, suggesting a protective antioxidant role. A number of studies support the use of vitamin C in allergy and asthma.
Recent research evidence indicates that the combined use of high doses of vitamin C and vitamin E helps prevent Alzheimer's disease as well as have beneficial effects for Parkinson's disease.
Vitamin E is needed for the development of the retina and protects against cataracts and macular degeneration. Beta Carotene also supports general eye health. Indeed, without proper vitamin A levels, you begin to develop greater night blindness. Using a liquid multivitamin is a convenient source through which you can easily obtain all of these and more.
Vitamin C has been found to benefit the human immune response, with increased antimicrobial and natural killer cell activities, lymphocyte proliferation, chemotaxis, and delayed dermal sensitivity. Studies have involved pharmacologic doses of vitamin C (200 mg/day to 6 grams/day in addition to dietary intake); therefore, the effect does not appear to apply to nutritional intake of vitamin C from food alone - in other words you must supplement to achieve these doses. There has been much interest in the use of pharmacologic doses of vitamin C to prevent or treat the common cold, as well as bolster a number other functions in the body, and many studies have reported beneficial results. Treatment of the common cold with vitamin C is associated with reduced duration of cold symptoms.
Chromium is an essential trace mineral that also assists the body in maintaining normal blood sugar levels. Chromium is an especially important nutrient for people who have type 2 Diabetes or are at risk for it. Insulin usually helps lower blood sugar levels, but if you have type2 Diabetes, your insulin is less effective. In fact, some cases of type 2 diabetes are actually triggered by a chromium deficiency.
Chromium may also play a role in increasing HDL ("good") cholesterol, while lowering total cholesterol levels.
Vitamin D maintains normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus. Vitamin D aids in the absorption of calcium, helping to form and maintain strong bones. It promotes bone mineralization along with a number of other vitamins, minerals, and hormones.
Without vitamin D, bones can become thin, brittle, soft, or misshapen. Vitamin D prevents rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults, skeletal diseases that result in defects that cause weak bones and muscles. Vitamin B12 has also been proposed as a treatment for numerous other conditions such as osteoporosis (calcium loss in bones), depression, and teeth diseases.
The primary function of vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is the production of collagen, which forms the basis for connective tissue in bones, teeth, and cartilage so proper levels are important to overall bone health.
Many studies have shown that folic acid reduces the incidence of spina bifida and other neural tube defects. Folic acid also lowers homocysteine levels, which has been shown to contribute to heart disease and heart attacks. The higher your homocysteine levels, the lower your folic acid levels are going to be, and visa versa.
Many of the other vitamins and minerals not mentioned in this article have been shown to have beneficial effects on our health, and are not fully reviewed here. For more information, take a look at the individual vitamins pages for information on specific vitamins.
A good multivitamin is the foundation of health and nutrition. Take a look at our scientific reviews of many of the popular brands for factors such as ingredients, areas of improvement, quality level, and overall value. If you are looking for a high quality liquid multivitamin, we suggest that you take a look at the Multivitamin Product Comparisons.
1. Kritchevsky SB. Beta-carotene, carotenoids and the prevention of coronary heart disease. J Nutr 1999;129:5-8 [review].
2. Palace VP, Khaper N, Qin Q, Singal PK. Antioxidant potentials of vitamin A and carotenoids and their relevance to heart disease. Free Radic Biol Med 1999;26:746-61.