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… Are Vitamins Necessary? … The simple answer is yes … It is a basic nutritional tenant that achieving mental and physical health often requires nutrient support from both food and supplemental sources.

MindCheck provides weekly in-depth information on the orthomolecular approach to coping with mood, behavior and psychotic disorders.  This series by Dr. Ray Pataracchia N.D. is endorsed by the  Mindful Network – ‘A Better Future for Children’s Mental Health’.

Vitamins: Are they a Necessity?

Nutritional counselors often fail to go beyond the number of calories or the amount of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins consumed.  Additional nutrient requirements are often only advised for pregnant women, where calcium and iron are the mainstay.  


Nutrient Deficiency Risk Factors

Many are on the fence in terms of deciding if nutrients are necessary for them.  Here are some nutrient deficient risk factors to consider.

If you have a restrictive diet or an established nutrient deficiency you are at higher risk for nutrient depletion.  Those that have a greater demand for nutrients include growing children, those with chronic illnesses (mental or physical), pregnant or nursing mothers, post-surgery patients, those with digestive disorders that compromise absorption, those exposed to periods of greater nutrient loss (e.g. physical/mental stress), and the elderly. Nutrient depletion often occurs gradually and insidiously with one depleted nutrient affecting other nutrient related metabolic processes that can results in a cascade of nutrient depletions.


Niacin Deficiency:  A Case in Point

Although we get nutrients from our food supply the optimal level of derived nutrients is questionable. The average amount of niacin (vitamin B3) needed to achieve basic nutritional balance in an adult with schizophrenia is ‘equivalent’ to fifty 100g servings of tuna a day.  Not to negate food as a good source of natural vitamins but it gets down to practicality.   Fifty servings of tuna are ‘equivalent’ to two 500mg pills of niacin and this 1000mg dose of niacin is the lowest recommended effective dose for schizophrenia. Niacin found in food is bound to natural fats, carbohydrates, and proteins which are well absorbed.  Due to good absorption of food derived nutrients, foods high in nutrients that you are deficient in are highly recommended.  Foods high in niacin are described in ‘Niacin(B3) – The Nutrient of Choice for Schizophrenia & ADD’.


Our Nutrient Depleted Food Supply

The soils of today are nutrient depleted.

Farming practices provide a classic example of supplementing where diet does not provide enough essential nutrients; here we see salt stones provided to animals as a means of compensating for the trace element deficient soil.

The loss of selenium and iodine from areas where top soil had been washed out during the Ice Age (‘end moraine areas’) are a classic example of soil nutrient depletion.  The plants that depend on that soil are likewise nutrient depleted as are the animal herbivores/omnivores (humans) that depend on plants, and the carnivores/omnivores (humans) that depend on animal herbivores/omnivores.

Many countries have attempted to supplement the food supply with commonly deficient nutrients.  The iodization of salt has been implemented successfully in Switzerland where a 90% decline in thyroid disease occurred.

For more on this and other soil depleted aspects you may want to read the Introduction chapter, the Iodine chapter, and the Selenium chapter of Trace Minerals in Health & Disease, a reference book co-authored by Dr Klaus-Georg Wenzel and myself in 2005.

Copper depletion in our food is another example of a nutrient poor food supply.  The list goes on …


Conventional Agricultural and Food Processing

Nitrogen fertilizers deplete trace minerals which encourages soil infertility.

Biologically important quality food constituents are on the decline due to the rise of food processing practices that enhance shelf life, taste, appearance, and texture.  Fast food hamburgers, for example, have diminished nutrient value.  Attempts at supplementing food with lost nutrients have been insufficient.  Food additives can be toxic and have the potential to illicit food sensitivities/reactions.

The end result is a deficiency of important food constituents, constituents that we need to obtain from external sources.


Poor Digestive Absorption of Nutrients

Poor absorption is not uncommon in today’s society.  DeWayne Ashmead in his 1982 book commented on the ‘18 barriers to mineral absorption’ (H. DeWayne Ashmead. Chelated Mineral Depletion in Plants, Animals, and Man.  1982.  Springfield IL; Thomas).

Adults hold about 12 pounds of fecal matter on their intestine walls, a clear deterrent to nutrient absorption.  Today we also see a large number of people with food allergies or chronic digestive conditions that further deter nutrient absorption.


Safety of Nutrients

The benefits far outweigh the risks when it comes to basic nutrients.  For a good read on the safety of mineral nutrients from A to Z you may want to refer to my book on Trace Minerals in Health & Disease.  The International Schizophrenia Foundation also has a good link on vitamins and minerals, there safety, effectiveness, and clinical application ramifications.

One of the ‘side effects’ of niacin for example, is reduced mortality; this was exemplified in the landmark longitudinal multi-center study, the Coronary Drug Project.  This study showed that those on niacin versus statins had greater life expectancy.  For some solid references of the use of niacin you can refer to Part One of my Review on Schizophrenia.


What about a Basic Multi? 

Given the above, is it not a bad idea to supplement with a multi-mineral or multi-vitamin.

Not all multi’s are alike and Targeted Therapy can help you figure out what combination of ingredients is best suited for you.

Good Orthomolecular (‘ortho’ means to align or straighten) approaches aim to find out that right combination of nutrients that suits you best.