Vitamins: A Time and a Place

WHERE TO KEEP THEM AND WHEN TO TAKE THEM

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Place

A Purdue University study has discovered that where you keep your vitamins in your home has a direct effect on their quality and lifespan.

According to the study, fluctuations in humidity can subject vitamins to a process called deliquescence, whereby they dissolve and consequently lose some of their value.

"If you get some moisture present or ingredients dissolve, they'll decrease the quality and shelf life of the product and decrease the nutrient delivery," says Lisa Mauer, an associate professor of food science at Purdue. "You can get complete loss of the ingredients. It depends on the conditions. It depends on the formulations. Within a very short time - in a week - you can get complete loss of vitamin C in some products that have deliquesced."

So where should we keep our vits? Not in the kitchen or bathroom.

"The humidity in your kitchen or bathroom can cycle up quite high, depending on how long of a shower you take, for example, and can get higher than 98 percent," says Mauer. "Opening and closing a package will change the atmosphere in it. If you open and close a package in a bathroom, you add a little bit of humidity and moisture each time."

And once that happens, the damage is done.

"The chemical changes we've observed are not reversible," says Mauer. "Any chemical changes or degradation that have occurred before resolidification don't reverse. You don't regain a vitamin C content after the product resolidifies or is moved to a lower humidity."

Moral of the story: Keep your vitamins away warm, humid environments that are prone to spikes in humidity.

Time

This varies depending on which dietary supplement you're talking about.

Most guys pop a multi-vit in the morning and don't think about it for the rest of the day. Nothing wrong with that. Some people, on the other hand, like to take their vitamins individually and should pay attention to their timing.

Let's start with fiber. Fiber is most effective when consumed in the morning so it can do its work in the digestive system without being obstructed by food. And if you also take an iron supplement, best to wait a little since iron doesn't absorb well with fiber.

Unlike fiber, vitamin C remains in the bloodstream for just a few hours and should therefore be taken throughout the day. Some suggest taking vitamin C every three hours for maximum effect, while others opt to taking a third of your daily dose with breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Speaking of meals, that is prime time for probiotics and digestive enzyme supplements. Probiotics can also be taken up to 20 minutes before a meal.

Calcium is most effective when taken before bed. Research has shown that this is when it is absorbed most efficiently, plus taking calcium before bed is widely believed to aid sleep.

Fat-soluble vitamins, as you may have gathered from the name, require fat for proper absorption. These include vitamins A, D, E and K and should be taken with food that contains fat.


Image by bradley j under flickr's creative commons license

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