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Biology 103
2002 Second Paper
On Serendip

The Essential Nutrients: Are You Getting Them?

Anastasia Michals

After returning home from the hospital, he wondered how it happened. A heart attack at thirty-six was a surprise to him as well as to his entire family. Luckily the signs and symptoms were caught early enough to save his life, but it was discovered that he had a disorder known as hypertensive heart disease. Unfortunately however, doctors were unable to explain why he had such high blood pressure. At any given moment a second myocardial infarction could occur, and could in fact be fatal if not caught early enough. His heart condition lead to depression and thoughts of suicide. He had lived a regular life, eating healthy foods, exercising regularly, and working in a profession that he enjoyed. This disease seemed to just creep up on him and changed his life forever. As he researched the disease more and more and sought medical assistance, he found that it all could have been prevented if only he had added a few small capsules to his diet. Doctors told him that vitamins and dietary supplements could have saved him from becoming part of another statistic.

Vitamins are organic molecules required in the diet in amounts that are small compared with the relatively large quantities of essential amino acids and fatty acids animals need. Tiny amounts of vitamins, ranging from .01 to 100 mg per day, may be enough, depending on the vitamin. Although the requirements for vitamins seem modest, these molecules are essential in a nutritionally adequate diet. Deficiencies can cause severe problems. In fact, the first vitamin to be identified, thiamine, was discovered as a result of the search for the cause of a disease called beriberi. Its symptoms include loss of appetite, fatigue, and nervous disorders. Beriberi was accounted for when it struck soldiers and prisoners in the Dutch East Indies during the nineteenth century. The dietary staple for these men was polished rice, which had the hulls removed in order to increase storage life. The men, and even the chickens, which ate this diet developed the disease. It was found that supplementing their diets with unpolished rice could prevent beriberi all together. Scientists later isolated the active ingredient of rice hulls. Since it belongs to the chemical family known as amines, the compound was named "vitamine" or a vital amine.

Along with the thirteen vitamins that are essential to human beings, many scientists now believe that there are dietary supplements that exist which are vital for the success of life such as Co-enzyme Q10. Co-enzyme Q10 is believed by many to relieve ailments and promote good health as well as a feeling of well being (1). It is found in every cell in the body and acts as a catalyst for ATP, which is used as energy for cellular function. If levels of Co-enzyme Q10 drop within the body, then the levels of energy for that human being will drop as well. Taken as a dietary supplement, Co-enzyme Q10 helps guard against possible deficiencies. It helps fight against aging by increasing the supply of the enzyme as the liver's ability to synthesize the enzyme decreases.

Co-enzyme Q10 improves cardiac function by providing energy to the heart. It contains properties that are beneficial in preventing cellular damage during a heart attack (9). The enzyme has also been used to treat other cardiac disorders such as angina, hypertension and congestive heart failure. Incidentally, it is also helpful during chemotherapy because it provides additional enzymes, while the body's supplies are being destroyed by the chemotherapeutic agents (1). In additional to these benefits, it has also been noted that Co-enzyme Q10 is effective in causing a regression of gum disease, boosts the immune system, and can greatly benefit the obese (2).

Lastly, it has been noted that Co-enzyme Q10 is the most vital fuel for mitochondria. There are roughly 60,000,000,000 cells in the body. In those cells there are 100,000,000,000,000 microscopic bacteria called mitochondria. All premature diseases and sickness are attributed to poor mitochondria health or low Q10 supply to the mitochondria. They can potentially live one hundred years if they are supplied with proper nutrients such as Q10, hydrogen, phosphates, oxygen, vitamins and minerals (3). Inefficient energy production within cells can cause approximately ninety per cent of all mutative damage to the cell infrastructures. Q10, if taken daily will not stop this natural destruction completely, but will help to slow the process.

Along with this revolutionary supplement, researchers have said that introducing fish oils into the daily diet can also be beneficial. There are good fats and there are bad fats in the foods that humans consume. Artificially produced trans-fatty acids are bad in any amount and saturated fats from animal products should be kept to a minimum (4). The beneficial fats or rather oils, since they liquidate at room temperature, are those that contain the essential fatty acids, which are polyunsaturated. They are grouped into two families, the omega-6 EFAs and the omega-3 EFAs. Minor differences in their molecular structure make the two families act very differently in the body. While the metabolic products of omega-6 acids promote inflammation, blood clotting, and tumor growth, the omega-3 acids act entirely opposite. Although both the omega-6 acids and omega-3 acids are needed, it is becoming increasingly clear that an excess of omega-6 fatty acids can have dire consequences (4). Many scientists believe that a major reason for high incidence of heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, premature aging, and some forms of cancer is the imbalance between the intake of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. In the past, diets included a ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 of about 1:1. An enormous change in dietary habits over the last few centuries has changed this ratio to something closer to 20:1, which is a huge problem (7).

Several studies conducted have associated low levels of omega-3 fatty acids and depression. Other studies have shown that countries with high levels of fish consumption have fewer cases of depression. Researchers at Harvard Medical School have even gone as far as to use fish oil supplementation to treat bipolar disorder and British researchers report encouraging results in the treatment of schizophrenia (4). It has even been noted that fish oils prevent and may help to ameliorate or reverse atherosclerosis, angina, heart attack, congestive heart failure, arrhythmias, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease. Fish oils help maintain the elasticity of artery walls, prevent blood clotting, reduce blood pressure and stabilize heart rhythm (5). Supplementing with fish oils has been found to be entirely safe even for periods as long as seven years and no significant adverse effects have been reported in hundreds of clinical trials using as much as 18 grams a day of fish oils (6).

Now there is also considerable evidence that the consumption of fish oils can delay or reduce tumor development in breast cancer. Studies have shown that a high blood level of omega-3 fatty acids combined with a low level of omega-6 acids reduces the risk of developing breast cancer (8). Daily supplementation of as little as 2.5 grams of fish oils has been found effective in preventing any progression in benign polyps or even colon cancer. Greek researchers report that fish oil supplementation improves survival and quality of life in terminally ill cancer patients.

Heart disease and cancers are killers that affect many human beings. They could possibly be prevented by taking supplements such as Co-enzyme Q10 or adding more omega-3 fatty acids to a daily diet. If started early enough, supplementation could change a person's life. It seems like a small price to pay to save a life.


1)Co-enzyme Q10, Information provided by Alaron Products Ltd

2)Co-enzyme Q10, Information provided by Symmetry

3)Q10 Stable Co Enzyme Australia,

4)Fish Oils: The Essential Nutrients, Hans R. Larsen

5) Simopoulos, Artemis. Omega-3 fatty acids in health and disease and in growth and development. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 54, 1991, pp. 438-63

6) Pepping, Joseph. Omega-3 essential fatty acids. American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy, Vol. 56, April 15, 1999, pp. 719-24

7) Connor, William E. Importance of n-3 fatty acids in health and disease. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 71 (suppl), January 2000, pp. 171S-75S

8) Cave, W.T. Jr. Dietary omega-3 polyunsaturated fats and breast cancer. Nutrition, Vol. 12, January 1996, pp. S39-42

9)Alternatives For Cardiovascular Health, Co-Q-10

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