Decoding Science of Vitamins and Minerals in the Body

In General Practice:

When you fall sick, you gorge on antibiotic tablets, few take vitamin supplement capsules, and some take days off at work. One can probably anticipate that you may have a weak immune system or there is a likelihood of drug-nutrient interaction, an underlying cause of derailment of your health. Most likely an onset phase of deficiency of nutrients as you age.

Vitamins and Minerals- A General Scenario:

In general, many doctors and health providers do not recommend routine check-up of vitamin level. In most of the cases, vitamin and mineral levels are tested in diseases such as immune system disorders, osteoporosis, and disorders of the immune system, where there is a possible manifestation of vitamin deficiencies of – calcium, iron, cholecalciferol and vitamin D.

A manifestation of vitamin deficiency comes with a myriad of invisible health problems but is omnipresent.

The Contributing factors

But, to no doubt, there are numerous factors causing vitamin and mineral deficiency in the body, few important factors are namely,

  • Reduced physical activity
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Lack of vitamin fortification in food

Through food, there are only a few natural sources of the sunshine vitamin (vitamin D), vitamin B12 and iron (for a plant-based or vegetarian diet).

Have you ever wondered, why so much talk about vitamin and supplements nowadays? The answer to this can be unfolded when we understand the clock of vitamins and mineral supplements in reference to-

  • Vitamin and mineral supplement interactions inside the body in the proximity of inside parameters of your body. Although needed in small amount are essential in optimizing health and well being because leading a healthy life is the need of the hour, to balance your work and life in the fast-paced world.

Discussions so far have been focused on requirements of vitamins and minerals for carrying out many vital functions of the body also, in the utilization of major nutrients namely, carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.

This propagates us to the next question of how much vitamin and mineral are needed by an individual and what combinations of the tablet will affect you when taken with food or taken before breakfast on an empty stomach.

With vitamin and minerals so important to us, we struggle to get their adequate amount through our diet alone, which we can easily miss from our routine diet. If you desire to obtain benefits of your daily vitamin supplements then taking them in at the right time and right amount can make a positive impact in your life.

List of Vitamin Combinations to avoid or taken together to obtain its full benefits:

  1. Calcium and Iron:

Avoid intake of calcium and iron supplements together as calcium works as an inhibitor to iron absorption. Also, caffeine and tannins found in tea and coffee affect their absorption.

The best time to take iron is in the morning on an empty stomach. Iron is an important mineral and major component of hemoglobin. Its lower level causes fatigue and a weak immune system.

Best time to take calcium: It is suggested to have a calcium supplement in the morning with breakfast or after lunch.

Tip: Try to have both the minerals at different times of the day for example if you take calcium in the morning take iron in the evening.

  1. Calcium and Magnesium:

Calcium is the most abundant mineral found 99% in bones and teeth and the remaining 1% in other physiologic function. It helps in healthy nerve transmission and muscle function. Magnesium can be found in bones about 60% and remaining in blood, muscles and tissue and fluids. It helps to sleep better at night as it relaxes muscles and nervous system and inhibits inflammation also.

If calcium and magnesium are taken at the same time, they interfere in the absorption. It is advised to have a gap of a couple of hours between these two mineral supplements. Ca: Mg ratio of 1:1 to be maintained for an adult (both men and women.)

Normal blood levels of Calcium: 8.5 to 10.5 mg/dl.

The best time to take magnesium is in the evening before going to bed.

  1. Copper and Zinc

Zinc acts as a co-factor for various enzymes to regulate the immune system. As per various studies, high doses of zinc may lead to copper deficiency by interfering in its absorption. Hence, it is advised to have around two hours gap when taking both the minerals together.

Tip: Avoid taking zinc an empty stomach and with iron, calcium or iron. Instead, take iron with food in the afternoon to avoid the feeling of nausea.

  1. Fat soluble vitamins (vitamin A, D, E, and K)

Fat-soluble vitamins are better absorbed when taken with food that contains dietary fats. To enhance absorption of vitamin K try to take other fat-soluble vitamins at other times of the day.  An orally safe level of zinc is 40 mg daily.

Vitamin Combinations to include in your Diet to obtain its full benefits:

  1. Calcium and vitamin D: Best Combo

Calcium and vitamin D works best together to protect bones. Vitamin D aids in better absorption of calcium from the small intestine in the body. Vitamin D forms naturally by the body when exposed to sunlight.

Best time to take Vitamin D:

Vitamin D a fat-soluble vitamin is best taken with dietary fats. Intake of 1000mg-1200mg of calcium carbonate daily and 400-800 IU of vitamin D weekly is recommended by doctors for an adult.

  1. Folic acid and Cyanocobalamin- Perfect duo

As vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin) found in foods from animal origin (eggs, meat, liver) and its levels get lowered in adults. Both folic acid (vitamin B9) and cyanocobalamin together play an important role in the formation of red blood cells, and their deficiency leads to megaloblastic anemia. A safe level of folic acid supplementation should be 1000 mcg per day to prevent symptoms of vitamin B12.

Although vitamin B12 can be synthesized in the gut by microbes, their bioavailability is difficult. For an adult, vitamin B12 intake is between 0.5 and 1.0 mcg per day.

It is generally advised to fulfill vitamin and mineral requirements naturally through foods rich in particular vitamin or mineral. Although factors such as age, gender, digestive disorder (such as lactose intolerance, gluten insensitivity) and eating patterns (vegan or vegetarian diet) may affect absorption of certain vitamins and minerals such as calcium, vitamin D, folic acid, iron, and vitamin B12 .

Tip: Avoid taking any vitamin and mineral or supplement randomly. The best thing to do is go for complete blood test and whole body checkup. Then take the vitamin supplements which is right for you and also know the correct dosage to avoid any complications from taking too much unnecessary supplements.

For example, iron enhances energy only when you are iron deficient. To know more about its levels, check with a blood test and consult a physician otherwise it is advised to avoid iron overload as it can be harmful leading to disease conditions. Moreover, taking excess of B-complex vitamins ( B1, B2, B6 and B12) do not provide a boost of energy rather it helps convert food into energy to be utilised by cells in the body.

For boosting your energy:

  1. Try to nourish your body with natural foods- eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, complex carbs and lean protein.
  2. Plan your meals so that you get nourishment throughout the day’s work.
  3. Morning sunlight (for 15-20 minutes before 1 pm)
  4. Dietary supplements (if could not meet the daily requirement of calcium, vitamin D and vitamin B12). Do not go for any other energy-boosting supplements.

Good news: Eating a balanced diet, you can achieve sufficient recommendation of micronutrients or from a combination of food and supplements under doctor and dietician advice.


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