Men's Guide to Supplements
More men than ever before want to achieve optimal health. Supplements formulated especially for men help top up their dietary requirements.
For many of us the morning routine goes something like this—shower, breakfast, and a handful of vitamins as we head out the door. But do the men in our lives do the same? Even if our husbands, fathers, sons, and brothers are traditionally “good eaters,” they may still be lacking important vitamins and minerals.
Why fewer men supplement
Statistics Canada reports that only 34 percent of men take vitamins compared to 47 percent of women. “Men often take a more laid-back approach to their health,” says Sherry Torkos, holistic pharmacist and author of The Canadian Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine (Wiley, 2007). “They are more likely to wait until a problem arises rather than look at what they can do preventively.”
While there is a wide variety of supplements geared toward pregnant, menopausal, active, and senior women, vitamin manufacturers have also realized that men’s needs are very different and have created blends that are specially formulated for them.
What to take
So what are the most important vitamins and supplements that men should be taking in order to maintain good health and help prevent common diseases and ailments down the road? The answers can easily be found on the shelves of your local health food store.
A good quality multivitamin
Men and women might share a carton of almond milk or organic shampoo, but one thing that’s not worth sharing is a multivitamin. There are some supplements that you can both take, such as omega-3s, vitamins C and D, and probiotics. But when it comes to multivitamins and supplements for specific health conditions, men and women have different requirements.
Teen boys have yet another set of needs. They can especially benefit from a daily multivitamin, as their diets are likely to consist of sugary, fatty fast-food fare instead of fruits, vegetables, and milk. Proper intake of important vitamins and minerals is crucial to support growth spurts, weight and muscle mass gains, reproductive maturation, and cognitive changes.
Elvis Ali, a licensed naturopathic doctor in Toronto, says that aging men should be particularly aware of protecting against prostate cancer and a condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia, an enlargement of the prostate gland. Ali advises men to look for a multivitamin that contains zinc for protection, lycopene for delaying the progression to prostate cancer, and saw palmetto to help shrink the inner lining of the prostate, which can put pressure on urinary tubes if inflamed.
Multivitamins contain the nutrients you need to complete your daily requirements, all in one little pill. Always check with your health care practitioner before taking a new supplement. For example, check first if you have a liver disorder and your multivitamin contains more than 5 mg of manganese, or in the case of selenium amounts over 200 mcg if you have a history of non-melanoma skin cancer. Vitamin K must be used with caution if you’re taking blood thinners.
For more information, engage the knowledgeable staff in the vitamin and supplement section at your local natural health store. They will be your best resource in finding the right multivitamin mix according to men’s individual needs.
Omega-3 fatty acids or fish oil
Next on the list is an omega-3 supplement. Since the body can’t produce essential fatty acids on its own, fish oil is best, providing the highest concentrations of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), or polyunsaturated fatty acids.
The benefits of taking omega-3 daily are vast. It can help lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, and blood pressure in those who suffer from hypertension. Omega-3 fatty acids may also help reduce inflammation of certain types of arthritis and are important for brain and cognitive function.
“Most health authorities recommend two servings of fish per week to ensure adequate omega-3 intake; however, many people are concerned with the contamination of our fish supply and prefer a supplement instead,” says Torkos. While this doesn’t necessarily mean we should forgo eating fish on a weekly basis, tests conducted on fish oil supplements for mercury and other pollutants assure their safety.
Like women, men work hard, and they’re stressed. A drive-through breakfast on the road may stand in when yogurt isn’t readily available, but a doughnut for breakfast can bring on uncomfortable gas and bloating during the day. Probiotics can help. They provide live bacteria naturally found in the gastrointestinal tract to aid digestion.
Recent studies show that those hard-working micro-organisms are beneficial in other ways, too. The American Heart Association reports that taking a probiotic twice a day can lower key cholesterol-bearing molecules in the blood, including LDL or bad cholesterol levels. This is particularly good news for high cholesterol sufferers who are looking for alternatives.
Researchers are also hard at work studying the effects of probiotics on dental health, and early results are encouraging. They suggest that probiotics can help treat oral infections, including tooth decay, gum disease, and bad breath.
Probiotics are safe, but don’t use them as a treatment if you’re experiencing any nausea, fever, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, or severe abdominal pain. If you are taking a probiotic and digestive upset symptoms set in and persist beyond three days, discontinue use. Probiotics are not necessarily recommended for immune-compromised patients, so speak to your health care practitioner to ensure they’re right for you.
Julie Chen, a naturopathic doctor in London, Ontario, highly recommends vitamin D supplements, particularly during winter months. In the summer, your skin more readily grabs the sun’s ultraviolet energy and turns it into vitamin D, a precursor to helping the body absorb the calcium you consume to build strong bones. Without vitamin D, your body will dip into calcium stores, making bones weaker and increasing the risk of osteoporosis and fractures.
This sunshine vitamin is also a proven heart protector. Studies show that men who are deficient in vitamin D are twice as likely to have a heart attack as men who maintain adequate levels. Other research concludes that low vitamin D levels are also a factor in heart failure, stroke, and cardiovascular disease. It’s thought that vitamin D has an effect on controlling blood pressure and preventing artery damage.
Just because you can’t get out on the golf course to soak up sunshine in the winter, it doesn’t mean you should double the amount of vitamin D you’re taking. Too much can cause calcinosis, the deposit of calcium salts in soft tissues such as the lungs, heart, and kidneys, and hypercalcemia, high levels of calcium in the blood.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
You may have heard a lot about this super supplement but not know much about its benefits. Coenzyme Q10 is a naturally occurring antioxidant produced by the body, which helps convert food into energy.
“Every cell in your body needs CoQ10 to make adenosine triphosphate, an energy bundle that fuels the body,” says Chen. “It is especially important for the cardiovascular system and the heart.” CoQ10 levels decrease as we age, which could be a factor in cardiovascular disease and other chronic illnesses. Chen prescribes a CoQ10 supplement for people with respiratory issues or fatigue, or for those who are taking medications for high blood pressure or cholesterol that deplete naturally occurring CoQ10 levels in the body.
There is also strong evidence that CoQ10 can benefit those suffering from depression by boosting this rich antioxidant’s levels, which are typically low in depressed patients.
A CoQ10 softgel with a meal containing fat later in the day will ensure optimal absorption.
CoQ10 should not be taken by those on prescription blood thinners. If you suffer from migraines and they increase in frequency accompanied by nausea and vomiting, discontinue use.
Last but not least, a green food supplement rounds out the list. “Green foods are fundamental building blocks to good health,” says Chen. “They fill the void in a diet lacking in antioxidants, and they’re easy to take.” Antioxidants protect against free radicals, molecules that can damage cells and lead to cancer, heart disease, and other life-threatening ailments.
Depending on the brand, a scoopful of green powder added to your morning glass of water or juice can provide you with the equivalent of four to five servings of fruit and vegetables in their most concentrated forms. A greens supplement is also good for detoxifying your system and keeping the stomach clean. Look for products that contain wheat or barley grass, chlorophyll, and sea vegetables for a daily hit of system-sweeping, immune-boosting goodness.
Before you begin
Speak to your health care practitioner and have a full medical checkup before beginning any type of vitamin or supplement regimen to avoid contraindications. Those taking blood thinners of any kind can compromise coagulation time with certain herbs and supplements. Also be cautious of purchasing supplements from foreign countries. Health Canada maintains strict guidelines for all vitamins and supplements sold domestically that may differ greatly from imported products.
Let’s face it. When it comes to men’s health, it’s sometimes the women in their lives who look after it. It’s not always easy, but encourage the males in your family to get a yearly physical, and especially for men over 50, to ask if a PSA (prostate-specific antigen) test is indicated. Take action at the first signs of pain or unusual symptoms despite their protests. They’ll be glad you did.
Supplements for men
Beyond eating a healthy diet, men can promote good health throughout their lives by supplementing appropriately. The following are some of the best natural supplements to support men’s health. As always, speak with a health care practitioner to determine the dosage that’s right for you.
|vitamin A||support proper immune system functioning
|vitamin B6||prevent cancer
balance blood sugar levels
treat heart disease and high cholesterol
|vitamin B12||support healthy functioning of nerve cells and blood cells
prevent anemia, heart disease, male infertility, diabetes, sleep disorders, weak bones, and more
|vitamin C||promote healthy skin and bones
ward off colds
lower high blood pressure
|vitamin D||reduce the risk of colorectal and prostate cancers
protect bones, teeth, skin, immune system, heart, and blood vessels
|calcium||strengthen bones and teeth
support functioning of heart and nervous system
treat symptoms of bone loss, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol
|omega-3 fish oil||treat high blood pressure, arthritis, high cholesterol, heart disease, oral thrush, eczema, psoriasis, diabetes, and depression|
|magnesium||maintain bone health
boost nerve and muscle function
regulate blood sugar and blood pressure
aid in healthy digestion
|copper||promote a healthy immune system
contribute to healthy nerves, bones, and blood vessels
|zinc (should be taken with copper)||boost the immune system
enhance health of prostate gland
fight viruses, such as colds and herpes
|saw palmetto||support prostate health
treat erectile dysfunction
|lycopene||promote healthy functioning of cells
protect against prostate cancer
|CoQ10||reduce effects of premature aging
treat chest pain, migraines, Parkinson’s disease, and high blood pressure
promote healthy digestion