13 Crucial Nutritional Supplements for Men
Although there are many health-conscious men these days, there still remains a significant majority that has a somewhat cavalier attitude toward nutrition. Just in my family alone, one (unnamed) male likes to eat mayonnaise on white bread for lunch (and dinner if he can get away with it), and another (I'll spare his anonymity, too) eats pizza, on average, 10 meals out of 21. (He points out that between tomato sauce, cheese, crust, and pepperoni he's hitting the major food groups, and so brooks no complaints).
Studies do indicate many men are deficient in certain crucial nutrients--vitamin D, for example, and sometimes calcium--and 77% of men don't take in enough magnesium.
In fact, there are a number of nutritional supplements that could greatly benefit many men, particularly those of the pizza-mayonnaise approach to eating. Let's take a look at the most healthful supplements men should consider taking.
Vitamin A is an antioxidant, which decreases the effects of aging and may even prevent disease.
It helps with low light and color vision, maintains mucus membranes (which are one of the body's first lines of defense against disease) and skin cells.
Age-related macular degeneration is one of the most common causes of blindness in older people. The Office of Dietary Supplements asserts that vitamin A, together with other antioxidants, zinc and copper, has demonstrated potential for slowing this vision loss.
Vitamin C is a known booster of the immune system, helping the body fight off sickness and infection. Studies show that taking vitamin C can reduce the duration of a cold by almost two days.
But that's not all it does. It assists the body in making hemoglobin, which carries oxygen in the red blood cells, can help prevent respiratory infections in those training for endurance races, decreases the occurrences of exercise-induced asthma--and even may help make you smarter.
A recently published study, in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, analyzed vitamin C's effect on learning in young guinea pigs. Sure enough, those with low-vitamin C diets exhibited behavior we would equate with learning disabilities, taking up to 6 times as long to learn to swim through a water maze as animals with adequate C in their diets. The vitamin-C-deprived subjects had 30% fewer neurons in the brain are responsible for memory and spatial direction.
Yet despite all its benefits, another study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that 60%of men don't get enough vitamin C in their diets.
Recommendation: take up to 1,000 mg a day.
Like vitamin C, vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant.
Some studies have correlated higher intakes of supplemental vitamin E with lower chances of developing heart disease.
As with vitamin A, a supplement with large doses of E combined with other antioxidants plus zinc and copper slowed vision loss in those with age-related macular degeneration. And in another study, smokers who took vitamin E supplements were 32% less likely to develop prostate cancer (although there is no research showing it prevents the cancer in non-smokers).
Take 200 mg daily.
Calcium is a crucial mineral in the body, strengthening bones and assisting the nervous system in relaying messages. Almost all the calcium in the body is stored in bones and teeth, where it supports their structure. Andrew Shao, PhD, senior vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs at the Council for Responsible Nutrition, says, "It's a misperception that osteoporosis is a women's issue. [Men] . . . want to pay close attention to calcium” for bone health.
Not just that. Calcium is also necessary to help muscles move, assist blood vessels in transporting blood throughout the body, and to help release hormones that affect bodily functioning.
It has also been shown to help with weight loss. One Canadian study found that people who took 1,200 mg of calcium supplements for a 15-week period lost 14 more pounds than those didn't meet recommended allowances of calcium.
The recommended daily allowance is 1,000-1,200 mg.
Vitamin D’s main role is helping the body absorb calcium, which aids in building stronger bones and prevents bone loss.
At the annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons in February of this year, researchers reported that among 889 adult patients treated for a fracture at a Missouri trauma center, 78% had 'insufficient' blood levels of vitamin D and 39% were 'frankly deficient.'
Although there have been no large-scale double-blind studies proving vitamin D's role in various aspects of health and wellness, there is enough evidence out there to convince a number of doctors.
Dr. Kevin A. Fiscella, a public health specialist and family physician at the University of Rochester recommends taking 1,000 IUs of vitamin D, assertingthat deficiencies in the vitamin can cause or contribute to diseases like high blood pressure, colorectal cancer, and heart disease.
Other studies have correlated lack of vitamin D with weight gain--and depression.
In the largest study of vitamin D and depression to date, researchers analyzed 12,500 subjects for 4 years and found that the those with lower levels of vitamin D in their blood had greater chances of suffering from clinical depression.
And--men with higher levels of vitamin D also have stronger sperm.
A 2011 study published in the journal Human Reproduction "showed a positive correlation between the percentage of motile sperm and serum vitamin D levels... and showed additionally that stimulation of human spermatozoa in the laboratory with activated vitamin D can increase their forward movement."
Take a minimum of 600-800 IU.
Often thought of as a muscle-building supplement, this element is a boon to diabetics. Richard Anderson, a researcher with the USDA, says that if you're overweight or have a genetic tendency to diabetes, "taking chromium is one of the best things you can do to help keep insulin levels where they belong."
Although no large, double-blind studies have been conducted, many believe that chromium sensitizes the body to insulin, which makes it easier for blood-sugar levels to stabilize. It might thus be a boon to those with type 2 diabetes.
Aim for 35 micrograms (mcg) per day--although if you are a diabetic your doctor may recommend significantly more.
Boron protects the prostate. Studies show that men with the highest boron intakes (at least 1.8 mg a day) are 65% less likely than men with lower levels (around 0.9) to develop prostate cancer. At a dose of 3 mg a day, it may also improve concentration and memory.
Beyond that, one study has found that 10 mg of boron increased testosterone within a few hours of consumption--and increased levels of vitamin D in the blood, as well.
Recommended: 3 mg a day
Fish Oil has the crucial omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, which can reduce triglycerides, or fat molecules in the bloodstream, increase good cholesterol, and lower blood pressure.
Fish oil is good for the heart, a big deal for men, who die of heart disease more than any other lethal illness. Taking fish oil supplements or eating two servings of fish a week can significantly reduce a man's risk of heart disease or heart attack.
Medline Plus notes that fish oil can reduce blood pressure; help people with rheumatoid arthritis recover from morning stiffness more quickly; and slow the loss of kidney function in those with kidney disease.
Additionally, studies indicate that a low fat diet high in omega-3 fatty acids from fish or fish oil helps to prevent prostate cancer.
Take at least 500 mg DHA and 500 mg EPA a day.
People use saw palmetto for a variety of reasons, including treating colds, coughs and sore throats, easing chronic bronchitis, and fending off migraine headaches.
But it is best known for its use in men's health. Although men use it as a diuretic and an aphrodisiac, its most common usage is in managing the symptoms of an enlarged prostate. As men age, their chances of developing a condition known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) increases. Although not dangerous, BPH does make complete urination difficult. A Korean study found that men taking 320 mg of saw palmetto a day saw a reduction in their BPH symptoms by 50% over the course of a year.
Saw palmetto doesn't actually shrink the size of the prostate; rather it shrinks the inner lining that puts pressure on the tubes that carry urine.
Try 320 mg a day.
It turns out that half of Americans consume only 80% of the RDA of magnesium--400-420 milligrams for adult men--and it's a deficiency that matters.
The Office of Dietary Supplements tells us that magnesium is required for over 300 biochemical reactions in the body. It assists in maintaining normal muscle and nerve function, helps keep heart rhythms steady, contributes to a healthy immune system, and keeps bones strong. Additionally, it helps regulate blood sugar levels and blood pressure, and plays a role in energy metabolism.
A recent review of research in Nutrition Reviews revealed that low levels of magnesium are linked to anxiety, depression, ADHD, type 2 diabetes, schizophrenia, and colon cancers. And magnesium plays a major role in the body’s stress response.
Andrea Rosanoff, Ph.D., coauthor of the study and director of the Center for Magnesium Education & Research in Hawaii, notes in an interview with Men's Health that the stress response speeds up the metabolism in the body. "When we speed everything up, the amount of magnesium we need soars.”
Too little of the nutrient can trigger stress on its own, continues Rosanoff. People with low magnesium are constantly putting out more adrenaline than normal. The nerves over-fire, adrenaline gets over-excreted, and the cells tend to overreact to the adrenaline.
Simply getting enough magnesium can help smooth over the ragged edges of life's challenges.
COENZYME Q10 (CoQ10)
CoQ10, another antioxidant, helps the mitochondria in cells produce energy.
Of particular interest to men, given the fact that they have significantly more heart attacks than women, people who took CoQ10 supplements within 3 days of having a heart attack were less prone to additional heart attacks and less likely to die of heart disease than those who didn't add the supplement. Additionally, along with regular medications, supplements of CoQ10 can help reduce swelling in the legs and fluid in the lungs that come from congestive heart failure.
The supplement also can improve interval workouts. One study found that cyclists who took 300 mg supplements of CoQ10 for 8 days increased their speed during sprints, and were less fatigued afterwards. The supplements also can decrease inflammation caused by heavy workouts.
Finally, Italian researchers claim that CoQ-10 may improve sperm quality.
Take 300 mg daily, with food for better absorption.
Glucosamine, which makes up cartilage, has been shown to be effective at relieving pain in joints. One study found glucosamine to be more effective than Tylenol in relieving the pain associated with knee osteoarthritis, sometimes found even in younger men due to joint injury.
A 2006 study found that 79% of men who took 1,500 milligrams of glucosamine and 1,200 mg chondroitin [which often comes with glucosamine in a supplement] had significant reduction in chronic knee pain. .
Newer research suggests the supplement might also help osteoarthritis of the hip or spine.
Take 1,500 mg of glucosamine a day.
And for the athletic set, creatine is a must.
Creatine is an amino acid that is stored in the muscles and converted into a major source of energy during high-intensity exercise. It aids endurance during workouts, allowing the user to withstand longer exercise sessions. A study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that men who took creatine supplements for 6 weeks as part of a weight-lifting regimen improved their leg-press strength by 62 percent.
But it's not just for gym rats.
The University of Maryland Medical Center points out that creatine supplements may help lower levels of triglycerides, and, in heart patients, those who took creatine increased the amount of exercise they could do before fatigue, compared with placebo. Additionally, people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and those with Parkinson's disease who took creatine increased muscle mass, muscle strength and endurance compared to those who took placebo.
It is suggested that you begin your regimen with either 5 grams a day for 5 days, or 3 grams a day for 28 days, and then maintain creatine levels with 1 gram after each workout.
Whether or not you're a man who thinks tomato sauce counts as a serving of fruit, and pepperoni is the ideal protein, taking the 13 supplements listed above can contribute to your physical and emotional health and well-being--and even make you the talk of the gym locker room.