There is no magic pill for wellness, although it would certainly make things easier. The right combination of nutritional supplements is different for each person. Luckily, there’s a formula that can help determine exactly what each person needs. A variety of factors influence which particular nutrients each body needs, including biometrics such as age and gender and lifestyle factors like diet and the medications a person takes. Genetics is the final piece of the puzzle. DNA can help inform how each individual’s bodies process various nutrients.
The five major factors that influence the nutritional supplements your body needs:
Age is an important determinant of nutritional needs. For example, vitamin C requirements increase steadily throughout childhood. Calcium and phosphorous needs also increase in childhood but drop back down in adulthood.
In older adults, there is often decreased vitamin B12 and magnesium absorption by the gastrointestinal tract. Older adults are also less able to produce vitamin D in their skin. Lutein, a carotenoid found in spinach and kale, may be particularly important in older adults to protect against age-related macular degeneration.
Gender also has a significant impact on nutrient requirements. Women have higher calcium and iron requirements than men. And since vitamin D aids in the absorption of calcium, the two nutrients combined are often recommended for women. During pregnancy, nutrients especially important for fetal development are folate and other B vitamins, as well as calcium, vitamin D, and iron. Moreover, the absorption of several nutrients, including calcium, iron, and zinc, actually increases during pregnancy.
For men and postmenopausal women, iron requirements are much lower. In fact, too much iron can raise the risk for heart disease. Since men have a higher risk of heart disease than women, certain nutrients, such as vitamin E and folic acid, may be especially beneficial to men. Additionally, the carotenoid lycopene, a naturally-occurring antioxidant found in tomatoes and watermelons, may reduce the risk of both cardiovascular disease and prostate cancer.
A person’s diet provides a lot of information about potential nutrient shortfalls. For example, a diet low in fruits and vegetables is also likely to be low in vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, and folate, whereas a vegan diet may be low in vitamin B12. A very low-fat diet may affect certain vitamin levels since fat aids in the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.
Another consideration is nutrient interactions. For example, iron absorption is improved by vitamin C but inhibited by calcium. Iron absorption is also inhibited by polyphenols, which are found in a variety of foods, including tea and coffee. Furthermore, excess protein intake increases the excretion of calcium in the urine.
DNA is now understood to have important effects on an individual’s nutrient needs. Variations on genes can impact how nutrients are utilized in the body, and they differ from person to person. A field of study known as nutrigenomics is paving the way to truly personalized nutrition. This is why genetic health testing has become an essential component of personalized nutrition. Gene variants have been discovered that are linked with lower levels of vitamin A, vitamin D, folate, and choline. There are also gene variants linked to a dangerously high accumulation of iron in the body.
Medications are sometimes necessary for curing disease, preventing disease, and improving quality of life. Every medication has side effects, and some of those side effects can be subtle. Many medications affect nutrient absorption, either through physiological processes or through side effects that cause people to avoid certain foods. Many commonly-used medications, such as NSAIDS, anti-hypertensives, and antidepressants affect nutrient levels, and hence the types of supplements that are beneficial in addressing nutritional deficits. Many medications also contraindicate with supplements, so it is important to carefully select supplements in order to prevent undesired side effects.
An analysis of only physical characteristics and lifestyle factors do not account for genetic impacts on nutrient requirements. To fully understand which supplements are right for you, you have to take your DNA into account. To discover which supplements are right for you Learn more.