Getting Your ABZs

Posted September 28, 2007 in Mind Body Spirit

Not that you would guess it in SoCal, but the summer will be over on Sept. 23 and it’s time to start thinking about taking care of your health again. We’re going to start you off real simple–just a little info on three vitamins you may want to add to or increase in your diet, vitamins A and B, and Zinc. Keeping in step with back-to-school time, the IE Weekly wants you to learn your ABZs.

This is the "Cliff Notes" version of vitamin info; please see the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements website, Ods.Od.Nih.Gov/Health_Information, for detailed fact sheets on why, when and how much you should take various vitamins. The best way to get your Vs is by eating a balanced, varied diet, but since most of us suck at that, a good multi-vitamin is a worthy investment. Just make sure you take it with food, as vitamins can be hard on your stomach.

Vitamin A plays an important role in vision, bone growth, reproduction, cell division, cell differentiation (whether it becomes part of your brain, your blood or your balls), regulating the immune system and helping the skin and mucous membranes function as a barrier to bacteria and viruses. There are two categories–the kind that comes from animals (a.k.a. preformed vitamin A), and the kind that comes from plants (a.k.a. provitamin A carotenoid, of which beta-carotene is the most efficient). The best sources for the animal variety are liver, whole milk, eggs and fortified foods. The best sources for the plant variety are dark or brightly colored fruits and vegetables, such as carrots, cantaloupes, sweet potatoes, spinach and apricots. Adult women should get 700 micrograms of the animal version, and men should get 900 micrograms, but you can have as much as you want of the plant version. A deficiency is often associated with strict dietary limitations and excessive drinking, and it can lead to blindness, so stop thinking that a strictly beer and hot wings diet covers your health needs.

Vitamin B6 is a water-soluble vitamin that performs a wide variety of functions in your body and is essential for good health. It’s needed for more than 100 enzymes involved in protein metabolism, essential for red blood cell metabolism, needed for the nervous and immune systems to function efficiently, important for maintaining normal blood glucose levels and necessary for the conversion of tryptophan (an amino acid) to niacin (another important vitamin). It’s found in beans, potatoes, meat, poultry, fish, fortified cereals and some fruits and veggies. Both adult women and men should get 1.3 milligrams. Signs of vitamin B6 deficiency include skin inflammation, glossitis (a sore tongue), depression, confusion, convulsions and anemia. Vitamin B12 and folic acid are also important, but we’ll save those for another day.

Zinc is an essential mineral found in almost every cell in your body. It stimulates the activity of approximately 100 enzymes, supports a healthy immune system, is needed for wound healing, helps maintain your sense of smell and taste, is needed for DNA synthesis and supports normal growth and development from fetus to adolescence. Oysters contain more zinc than any other source, but you can also get it from red meat, poultry, beans, nuts, fortified cereals, whole grains and dairy products. Sorry vegetarians–you absorb it better when it comes from animal sources. Adult women should get eight milligrams and men should get 11 milligrams. Consequences of zinc deficiency include growth retardation, loss of appetite, hair loss, diarrhea, delayed sexual maturation, impotence and eye and skin lesions, all of which probably makes oyster shooters sound a hell of a lot more appealing.


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