To Your Health
July, 2010 (Vol. 04, Issue 07)
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The ABCs of Good Health: 10 Key Vitamins and Minerals

By Dr. Richard Drucker

With all the uncertainties in the world, this much is certain: Vitamins and minerals are necessary for vital health. Despite their importance, most people don't know very much about vitamins and minerals beyond the most "famous" ones: vitamins A, C, E, along with the minerals calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc.

There are actually quite a few essential vitamins and minerals that, while lesser known, are of equal importance in terms of our health. Let's change that "lesser known" label right now by focusing on 10 key vitamins and minerals your body needs on a daily basis.

1. Vitamin D3

We begin with a vitamin that has been generating a lot of attention recently: vitamin D3. Most of us are generally familiar with vitamin D, but do you know that vitamin D is actually made up of two distinct forms: vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol)? Vitamin D2 is naturally present in very few foods and must be added to "fortified" products such as milk, juices and cereals. The lack of this form of vitamin D is attributed to bone disorders such as rickets. Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is synthesized by the skin when it is exposed to the sun or ultraviolet light.

Functions: Recent evidence suggests that D3 may be more effective than D2 in promoting calcium absorption and thus bone growth and remodeling. It prevents softening of the bones in both children (rickets) and adults (osteomalacia). It also helps modulate neuromuscular and immune function while reducing inflammation.

Sources: Individuals with limited sun exposure need to include good sources of vitamin D3 in their diet from food or supplements. Primary sources of this vitamin are fish and fish oils, beef liver, cheese and egg yolks. An appreciable number of flowering plants in the Solanaceae family contain vitamin D3 and its hydroxylated derivatives.

Recommended Daily Intake: Recommended D3 daily intake for infants to 50 years of age is approximately 200 IU (international units), between 51-70 years - 400 IU, and over 71 years - 600 IU.

2. Niacin

Niacin - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark Another lesser known but equally important vitamin is B3, also known as niacin or nicotinic acid. This vitamin, along with all B vitamins, helps the body convert carbohydrates into glucose to be used as energy. It is beneficial for proper nervous system function, hormone production, circulation, and cholesterol reduction. It may also reduce the incidence of atherosclerosis, diabetes, osteoarthritis, Alzheimer's disease and various skin conditions. Interestingly, alcoholism is the primary cause of vitamin B3 deficiency in the U.S. Deficiency symptoms range from indigestion, fatigue, and depression to pellagra (characterized by cracked, scaly skin, dementia, and diarrhea).

Sources: Niacin can be obtained by eating beets, brewer's yeast, beef liver, beef kidney, fish, salmon, swordfish, tuna, sunflower seeds, peanuts, strawberries, carrots, and sweet potatoes.

Recommended Daily Intake: Suggested intake ranges from 2 mg/day for infants to 17 mg/day for adults.