You want to eat a balanced diet but have no time to figure out the calorific and nutritive value of everything you bite into. So you do the next best thing -- cut back on fats, sugars and starch, and eat more greens and whole-grains. That done, it’s very likely you pop a multivitamin to make-up for any nutritional shortcoming your dietary choices may cause.
Most vitamin supplements come in permutations and combinations of the same small group of vitamins: A, E, D and K. The only thing that varies between brands is the amount of each nutrient and whether it contains other minerals and natural extracts of “power foods” such as primrose oil, ginseng, ginkgo or green tea extracts.
Power extracts don’t work
There is no scientific evidence to show that extracts, however natural, added in meaningless amounts to supplements bring any benefit, so choose standard multivitamin and mineral tablets. A month’s supply of standard tablets is priced between Rs 30 and Rs 100, but packaging and added frills can take the price upwards of Rs 2,000.
Again, specialised formulae marketed to students, women, men or people over 65 that promise to enhance memory, lower stress, elevate menopausal symptoms or increase energy are little more than dodgy claims made because it is not regulated by India’s Drugs and Cosmetics Act.
There are some essential vitamins, however, that people in India are usually deficit in. Here are three deficiencies you must watch out for.
Though Vitamin D is made by the skin on exposure to ultraviolet radiation of sun, three in four people in India have insufficient or deficient amounts of the vitamin in tropical India, reported a study in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics.
Spending time indoors and living in highly polluted areas makes the deficiency acute, with a study in the journal Indian Paediatrics reporting that 93.7% Delhi schoolgirls aged 6 to 17 years were Vitamin D deficit. Vitamin D helps the bones absorb calcium and protects against heart disease, diabetes, breast and colon cancers, and autoimmune disorders such as multiple sclerosis.
Reduced exposure to direct sunlight (an hour each day), pollution, absence of food fortification and a traditional diet high in phytate (found in legumes, beans, nuts, edible seeds and grains) are depleting vitamin D levels in Indians and making supplementation the only option. The normal range is 20 nanograms/milliliter to 50 ng/mL, so get tested and take supplementation, if needed.
Vitamin B12 and folic acid
Found mostly in foods of animal origin, Vitamin B12 is needed in the metabolism of folic acid, which results in both deficiencies usually occur ring together. Vegetarians, people who have too much alcohol or are on certain medicines, such as those used to treat tuberculosis . It’s deficiency causes pernicious anaemia, chronic fatigues, numbness and tingling in the hands and feet, tiredness, forgetfulness, chronic headaches, dizziness and irritability.
A study of people with symptoms of Vitamin B12 deficiency in Maharashtra found that 33% were vegetarian and six percent had neuro-psychiatric symptoms that included depression, forgetfulness and loss of reflexes.
Folic acid tablets are standard prescription for pregnant women as it lowers risk of miscarriages and neural tube defects such as spina bifida (the baby’s spine and back don’t close in the womb). In healthy people, folic acid deficiency causes anaemia and lowers nutrient absorption with people with ulcerative colitis, liver or kidney disease at most risk. Folic acid also lowers the risk of heart disease, colon cancer, and breast cancer.
Weekly doses of iron and folic acid tablets are given to 130 million adolescents in India to reduce anaemia, which lowers immunity, brain development, growth, brain development and work productivity, Even mild iron deficiency affects thought and recall, with iron tablets helping improve attention, short- and long-term memory.
This doesn’t mean iron pills work as memory-enhancers . Supplementations work only when you have low levels of iron, which carries oxygenated blood to cells, including those in the brain. A simple blood test (haemogram) can show if youre deficit -- blood haemoglobin should be more than 12 gm/dl for women and 13 gm/dl for men.
Iron is best absorbed from meats, but good vegetarian sources are almonds (10 pieces, 0.7 mg ), dried apricots (10 pieces, 1.7 mg), broccoli (raw, one stalk, 2.1 mg), dates (10 pieces, 1.6 mg), kidney beans (1/2 cup, 3 mg), peas (1/2 cup, 1.3 mg) and spinach (1/2 cup, cooked, 2 mg).