Tag Archives: vitamins

  • The Scoop on Vitamins: Vitamin B2 - Riboflavin

    This is part of our continuing series on the function of vitamins in the body.

    Vitamin B2 is a powerhouse of energy, and a key member of the B vitamin family. B2, or riboflavin, is comprised of two enzymes: flavin mononucleotide and flavin adenine dinucleotide, which play an essential role in the breakdown and assimilation of food. As a potent enzyme, riboflavin helps us to synthesize essential fatty acids and amino acids. It also enables better absorption of iron and B6. Riboflavin is so vital to the system that cells cannot grow without it, and deficiency is quickly seen in cells that are frequently reproducing, like the mucous membranes, eyes, hair and in vitro.

    Because B2 is such an intricate part of cellular energy and metabolism, its requirements are based on the amount of calories a person consumes, as well as their body weight and their lifestyle. According to The Nutrition Desk Reference, we need roughly 0.6 mg of vitamin B2 per 100 pounds of body weight every day.

    For example, a pregnant woman needs no less than 1.6 mg/day to nourish herself and the cellular demand of her growing infant. Similarly, because young children and teens are growing so rapidly, they need a daily dose of .8-1.2 mg/day. (Signs of deficiency among this group include red cracks at the corners of the mouth.) Because of their larger build, an active adult male will need more substantial dose of around 1.7 mg/day.  

    Like most other B vitamins, B2 is water soluble, meaning it is used rapidly in the body and can be excreted quickly under stress and with the use of diuretics like caffeine. Depletion can stem from the birth control pill, strenuous exercise, antibiotic use and alcohol. Unfortunately B2 deficiency isn’t terribly easy to recognize—that’s why it’s imperative to reach for whole foods that offer the nutrient in abundance, like organic milk products, tuna and salmon, chicken, dark leafy greens, mushrooms, asparagus, broccoli, sprouts, and eggs. Choosing foods loaded with this essential nutrient will keep your energy levels up and prepare your body to repair tissue and ward off sickness. A daily multivitamin or B complex can also be a good way to supplement this essential vitamin.

    The Nutrition Desk Reference, by Robert Garrison and Elizabeth Somer

    Elizabeth Willis is a Certified Clinical Nutritionist and Herbalist. She has a private practice in Boulder, Colo., and also works at Pharmaca’s downtown Boulder location. Elizabeth specializes in a holistic approach by connecting her clients with the more dynamic roles of food and nutrition. She believes that by eliminating food intolerances, building optimal nutrition and working directly with the emotional body, it is possible to greatly revive one’s health by reconnecting body with spirit.

  • Do I Really Need a Multivitamin?

    Multivitamins are filled with nutrients—but if we eat healthfully, shouldn’t we be getting all those nutrients through our diets? According to the Harvard School of Public Health, a diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, good protein and healthy fats should provide most of the nutrients needed for good health. Still, many Americans fall short of the recommended micronutrient intake set by the American Institute of Medicine, especially vitamins like D and E. As a result, "A daily multivitamin is an inexpensive nutrition insurance policy," the Harvard experts advise.

    Our practitioners recommend a good multivitamin for a variety of health goals, however. For instance, “Adults with athletic and active lifestyles can benefit from a multivitamin’s ability to repair tissue, replace electrolytes and provide antioxidants to stop free radical damage,” says Elizabeth Willis, herbalist and nutritionist at our downtown Boulder store.

    For people undergoing large amounts of stress, Elizabeth says a multivitamin can help flush stress hormones from the body, increase energy and help the body better adapt. “A quality multivitamin is also a good choice for those on a restricted diet or those with digestive disorders,” says Elizabeth (such as vegetarians or those who eat a gluten-free diet), since those conditions can limit your ability to intake all of the nutrients you need.

    “Medications such as antibiotics, sleeping pills, aspirin and oral contraceptives can deplete vitamins and nutrients in the body,” says Don Summerfield, Pharmaca’s vice president of integrative health, in addition to smoking, dieting, alcohol consumption and obesity. “A good multivitamin can do is give you reassurance that you are getting the proper amounts of vitamins and minerals needed for good health.”

    "Remember that a multivitamin won't compensate for a poor diet—but it can help fill nutritional gaps in a good one,” says Summerfield. Ultimately, it’s about eating a healthy, varied diet that meets your nutritional needs, and adding the “insurance” of a good multi.

    Speak with a Pharmaca practitioner about finding the right multivitamin for your nutritional needs.

  • What Do Those Expiration Dates Mean, Anyway?

    Chances are you’ve got a few bottles of expired medicine lying around the house. So what happens when you’re in dire need of some cold medicine and the only package you’ve got is two years old? Here’s how expiration dates work.

    Prescriptions and OTC drugs  
    In 1979, a law was passed that mandated that all drug manufacturers put a stamped expiration date on their drugs. This stamp represents the manufacturer’s guarantee of the full efficacy and safety of the drug. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the drug is not stable after this date; it simply guarantees that it is stable in a sealed container with full potency up to this date. The average expiration date is between one and five years.

    A study conducted by the FDA found that 90 percent of more than 100 tested prescription and over-the-counter drugs were found to be safe and effective far past their expiration date—many up to 10 years. While the original effectiveness of the drug may decrease over time, many drugs can be considered safe for use past expiration (with the exception of certain drugs such as nitroglycerine, insulin, EpiPens and liquid antibiotics).

    Dietary supplements
    While the FDA does not require expiration dates for nutritional dietary supplements, manufacturers often include this information in an effort to ensure products provide consistent results. To set an expiration date, a manufacturer must perform stability tests to determine active ingredient degradation over time. And the FDA requires that manufacturers who put an expiration date on their products can prove that the product maintains the original potency listed on the label until the stamped expiration date.

    Here is the general wisdom on the expiration dates of different types of supplements:

    • Herbal, vitamin, mineral, enzyme and amino acid supplements slowly weaken with age. As a general rule of thumb, these supplements may maintain potency for 1-2 years following their expiration date.
    • It is thought that quality B vitamins may not sustain potency following expiration, so it’s a good practice to purchase new B vitamins once yours are past the expiration date.
    • Fish oils and probiotics can maintain potency for around three months past the posted expiration date.
    • Juice or liquid and glandular supplements may maintain potency up to a year past the expiration date.

    Generally, the higher the quality and grade of the supplement, the longer a dietary supplement will maintain potency past the expiration date. Natural supplements generally do not degrade into anything toxic or harmful over time—this also would be dependent on proper storage.

    To ensure potency of any substance, make sure you store it safely. Always keep drugs and supplements in their original packaging. Keep them out of heat, moisture and light, and only refrigerate them if told to do so by your pharmacist. And never store your drugs in the bathroom cabinet, as the bathroom carries a lot of moisture.

    Lastly, never flush prescription medications or supplements down the toilet. Wastewater treatment plants are not designed to remove and destroy drugs, and doing so can lead to contamination of drinking water as well as oceans, lakes and rivers. Polluting marine life in turn has a hazardous impact on our food chain and the drugs can end up back in our bodies. (Click here for more information about proper medication disposal.)

    Kate Brainard attended Bastyr University’s doctorate program in Naturopathic Medicine. She currently manages Pharmaca’s La Jolla store

  • New study shows vitamin A key to preventing melanoma

    Another reason to get your vitamin A: A recent study showed that people taking a vitamin A supplement were 60 percent less likely to develop melanoma.

    The study, published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology in March, followed nearly 70,000 adults for six years. At the end of the study, 566 had developed melanoma; 506 of those had never taken vitamin A supplements. Among the 5,800 people who were currently taking vitamin A (and had used it regularly over the previous decade), there were only 28 cases.

    The study also showed that vitamin A’s protective effects are more pronounced in women than men, possibly because women have more natural antioxidant protection in their skin than do men.

    It’s important to note the study found that the melanoma risk was most reduced for participants who took high doses of the vitamin. But experts warn that there are limits to how much people should consume, since too much vitamin can lead to birth defects, liver problems and bone loss. The current RDA for vitamin A is 700 mcg for adult women and 900 mcg for adult men. Vitamin A is also found in foods such as sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, milk and eggs.

    Of course, vitamin A consumption is just one step in reducing melanoma risk. Proper sun protection is also vital to avoiding skin cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, about 76,000 cases of melanoma will be diagnosed this year, leading to more than 9,000 deaths. So limit sun exposure, and protect yourself with good mineral sunblock from Pharmaca!

  • Prenatal vitamins shown to reduce the risk of autism

    A new study in the journal Epidemiology showed that mothers who took prenatal vitamins in the three months prior to conception had a significantly reduced risk of having children with autism or related autism spectrum disorders. The research, out of UC – Davis, suggests that taking high-quality, folate-rich prenatals before getting pregnant may help reduce risk of these increasingly common disorders by 40 percent.

    The study assessed 532 children with autism or related disorders and compared them with 278 children with normal development. Research found that mothers of children with autism were less likely to report having taken prenatal vitamins during the three months before pregnancy or the first month of pregnancy (than mothers of normally developing children).

    The moral of the story? If you plan on getting pregnant soon, start taking a high-quality prenatal vitamin now. One of Pharmaca’s best-sellers is New Chapter’s Perfect Prenatal, especially high in folate, which is also key in preventing neural tube defects.

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