Vitamins: How-To Guide for a Healthier Body (cont.)

But homocysteine levels are strongly influenced by diet, and several studies have found that higher blood levels of B vitamins are related, at least partly, to lower concentrations of homocysteine. The Daily Values for the B vitamins are: folate, 400 micrograms or more; B-6, 1.5-2 mg; and B-12, 2.4-3 mcg. Today, cereals, breads, and other grain products are fortified with extra folate. Also fruits and vegetables like spinach, oranges, broccoli, and asparagus have high levels of folate. Check your multivitamin to see how it stacks up with B-6 and B-12.

"Individually, all the B vitamins do different things, but folic acid is very beneficial for someone of childbearing age because it aids in neural tube developments" and prevents birth defects such as spina bifida, Shanta-Retelny says. "B-12 is an energy vitamin, so it gives you energy, and B-6 helps the body to function properly."

Don't Forget the D

Vitamin D, aka the sunshine vitamin because your body makes it in response to sunlight, is often overlooked today. "More people are staying out of the sun and as a result are becoming deficient in vitamin D and setting themselves up for fractures," Shanta-Retelney says.

Vitamin D helps your bones properly use calcium. "The sun is our most natural source of vitamin D, so 15 minutes of sunlight per day with sunscreen is a good idea," she says. Dairy products including milk yogurt and cheese all are fortified with vitamin D. Aim for 600 IU for vitamin D.

Published Aug. 16, 2004.

SOURCES: Molly Kimball, RD, a nutritionist, Ochsner Clinic's Elmwood Fitness, New Orleans. Victoria Shanta-Retelny, RD, LD, Northwestern Memorial Wellness Institute, Chicago. Carolyn Dean, ND, MD, City Island, N.Y. Frederic Vagnini, MD, FACS, medical director, Pulse Anti-Aging Center, Scarsdale, N.Y.

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Last Editorial Review: 8/19/2004 10:14:09 PM