Early in my medical career, I realized that everyone, regardless of age, sex, or health status, needed a basic nutritional foundation that provided reasonable (not just RDA) levels of key vitamins and minerals. Because no product like this existed, I formulated the Forward Plus Daily Regimen.
My goal was for this daily multivitamin and mineral supplement to contain the entire gamut of antioxidants, B-complex vitamins, minerals, trace minerals, and other nutrients shown in the scientific literature to have therapeutic effects. I’ve always viewed the Forward Plus Daily Regimen—and my latest Forward Gold Daily Regimen, which I formulated to address the unique needs of people 65 and older—as the “hub” around which additional supplements can be added (like spokes on a wheel), and the foundation on which other therapies, such as diet and exercise, can be built upon.
To commemorate the 20th Anniversary of my Forward Plus Daily Regimen, I’m writing a blog series on how Forward’s components help promote and support optimal health and well-being. Today, I’m focusing on the role of three primary antioxidants: vitamins A, C, and E.
Vitamin A and Beta-Carotene
Vitamin A, or retinol, is the generic name given to a group of naturally occurring compounds called retinoids. You probably know that vitamin A is important to vision (it is crucial to the health of the retina—thus the name retinol). But it is also necessary to help maintain an effective immune system. In addition, vitamin A is necessary for collagen and cartilage synthesis and for growth and repair of skin, bones, teeth, and the cells that line the respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts.
Beta-carotene is the most famous of the carotenoids, a widespread group of naturally occurring pigments that are responsible for the intense red and yellow colors of carrots, sweet potatoes, corn, and apricots. These compounds are converted into vitamin A as needed by the body, but they also perform important functions in their own right. They are powerful antioxidants—even more powerful than vitamin A—that protect your cells from free radical damage. I recommend 15,000 IU of vitamin A, as beta-carotene from mixed carotenoids, daily.
Vitamin C plays a critical role in warding off disease. Studies have shown that people with high blood levels of vitamin C have reduced risk of heart disease, and that vitamin C may help delay or prevent cataracts. A high intake of C also supercharges some of your immune system’s most important defense cells, helping them move faster while tracking down pathogens.
Vitamin C helps form collagen, which strengthens cartilage and connective tissue, and helps remove heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, and mercury from your body. This vitamin also helps prevent arteriosclerosis, varicose veins, and bleeding gums, and inhibits oxidation of LDL cholesterol.
Vitamin C is found in broccoli, peppers, cantaloupe, strawberries, oranges, kiwis, pink grapefruit, and raw vegetables and fruits. You should not worry about taking too much vitamin C—excesses will be excreted in the urine. If you are under stress or a smoker, your body needs increased doses of vitamin C. I recommend a minimum of 1,000 mg of vitamin C per day.
Vitamin E has multiple roles when it comes to promoting optimal health, but it indisputably protects against heart disease. Vitamin E’s protective power comes from its remarkable antioxidant activity in the fatty tissues of your body. These tissues are subject to lipid peroxidation during normal cellular metabolism. Lipid peroxidation is a chain reaction of free radical damage that self-perpetuates and would virtually eat us alive in a few weeks if it were not for vitamin E and other fat-soluble antioxidants.
This powerful antioxidant fights the constant onslaught of free radicals generated not only by the body’s metabolism but also by heavy metals, environmental toxins, drugs, and radiation. By decreasing LDL cholesterol and plaque deposits on artery walls, vitamin E reduces the probability of heart attack, stroke, and atherosclerosis. It is also an effective therapy for preventing Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Furthermore, vitamin E helps alleviate respiratory problems and boosts your immune system’s ability to fight off infectious disease.
The main dietary sources of vitamin E are vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds. To get the amount found in much of the research that confers substantial benefits, you’d have to eat 2,000 almonds, containing 16,000 calories and 1,300 grams of fat. Clearly supplements are the way to go. Take only natural vitamin E. You can tell it’s natural if it’s listed as d-alpha-tocopherol or d-alpha-tocopheryl. Synthetic vitamin E is listed as dl-alpha-tocopherol or dl-alpha tocopheryl (note the “l”). I recommend a daily dose of 300–400 IU of vitamin E.
Now it’s your turn: Which antioxidant benefits are most important to you?