Most people don’t eat a perfect diet. Busy lifestyles often lead to poor food choices. So maybe you’re curious about taking supplements to fulfill the nutrients you are missing from your diet. Pulse spoke with Manhattan Beach-based physician
Robert Swift, MD, and his wife, Barbara Swift, RN, both members of the Graziadio Wellness Center Advisory Committee at Torrance Memorial, to get their take on supplements.
“The most important thing we can do for our health is to eat the right diet, ideally one that is plant-based and includes generous amounts of organic, fresh fruits and vegetables of varying colors, adequate amounts of whole grains, and is low in sugar,” says Dr. Swift. He notes that the average American consumes 45 pounds of sugar per year. Sugar causes inflammation, which can lead to increased levels of LDL, the “bad” cholesterol that leads to heart disease. Sugar can also cause fatty liver disease.
But supplements can help make up for some of the nutritional deficiencies that may appear with increasing age, poor diet or the use of certain medications. The recent Torrance Memorial lecture by Mimi Guarneri, MD, titled “Prevention: Nutrition and Supplements for a Healthy Lifestyle,” highlighted the role nutrition and supplements play in maintaining health. If you’re just getting started, here are five supplements our physicians recommend.
Vitamin D3 helps the body absorb calcium, which works to increase bone density. It also strengthens the immune system and improves mood. Dr. Swift advises that most adults take a minimum of 2,000 IUs (International Units) per day, noting a link between low levels of vitamin D and breast cancer in women and cardiovascular disease in men. People with special conditions may require a higher dose.
Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids that help prevent inflammation. “Inflammation is the precursor to most degenerative diseases.” Dr. Swift advises that most adults take 2,000 mg to 3,000 mg per day of fish oil. Look for “purified” fish oil, which means the contaminants from the fish, such as mercury, have been removed.
Look for a highquality multi-vitamin containing B-complex (all of the B vitamins), mixed carotenoids (not just beta-carotene and no preformed vitamin A), and mixed and natural tocopherols (various forms of vitamin E). The B vitamins help to remove homocysteine from the body.
High levels of homcycsteine can increase your risk of having a stroke or heart attack. Mixed carotenoids and tocopherols are antioxidants. Carotenoids promote eye health. Barbara Swift, RN, advises taking this combination to help you fill in the gaps when you know you’re not eating properly.
Calcium supplementation is especially important for women over 50. Along with vitamin D3, calcium is integral for bone health. Dr. Swift advises that women should get a total of 1,000 mg to 1,200 mg of calcium each day with no more than 500 mg to 700 mg of the total coming from a supplement and the rest coming from calciumrich foods. Men generally don’t need supplementation as long as they have a healthy diet.
CoQ10 is a potent antioxidant and important for maintaining heart health. It’s especially recommended if you take a statin drug (one that lowers cholesterol), to offset any potential side effects of the medication.