Why Take Them?
Because I said so!
Well, there’s actually better reasons for taking supplements than just because I’m telling you to.
I always encourage my clients to get involved in their healthcare decisions. Don’t turn into a robot or bury your head in the sand when it comes to decisions about what you’re putting into your body. Supplements are no different than food in some respects – quality makes a difference and they serve an important role in supporting overall health.
How Many People Take Supplements?
As it turns out, quite a few. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tells us that as-of 2006 over half of adults in the U.S. use dietary supplements, mostly multivitamins (39%)[i]. In spite of this trend, it does not seem to be making people healthier since chronic disease rates continue to rise.
And herein lies the important point with supplements: supplements must be used in addition to a healthy diet, not in place of one.
You can’t cover up years of abuse to your body from processed foods, a high sugar diet, frequent fast food-eating, smoking, or excessive alcohol use by simply taking a handful of pills every day. Many Americans try that route every day with pharmaceutical drugs and usually figure out that, in most cases, they only mask symptoms and often with terrible side-affects that can be worse than the original problem.
Why Can’t We Get All Our Nutrients From Food?
To understand why supplements might be needed to support good health you first need to understand that in today’s world it is challenging, if not nearly impossible, to provide our body’s with the nutrients it needs on a daily basis using food as your only source of those nutrients. If you are like most people living in the U.S., a large part of your diet includes fast-food restaurants, processed and refined foods, beverages and foods that are high in sugar. You’ll know this is true by taking note of the average size person you see as you sit in your parked car at your local grocery store. More than one-third of adults in the U.S. are obese and 10% diagnosed with type 2 diabetes [ii].
Even if you are one of the few who manage to avoid those dietary pitfalls and focus on fresh, whole foods as the staples in your daily diet, the fruits and vegetables you consume are most often grown and harvested from nutrient-depleted soil. The meats are from livestock that are raised on chemically modified grains and hormones. The food you and I consume every day, by and large, is deficient in nutrients and loaded with harmful chemicals, fats, and calories that contribute to the various health epidemics we witness in this country.
So the sad and unfortunate facts are, you can be as dedicated to an organic, fresh, whole foods diet as Weston A. Price (known as the “Isaac Newton of Nutrition”), but your body could still be deficient in important nutrients [iii].
How to Select Good Quality Supplements
There are two things that are important when deciding to incorporate supplements into your nutritional program. You need to figure out which ones to take and find the best quality supplements possible.
The best way to figure out which supplement(s) you should be taking is to work with a nutritionist or other healthcare provider who can help determine which deficiencies might exist. Your practitioner will also make adjustments to what you’re taking from time to time and possibly even adjust dosages. Don’t start taking a bunch of stuff just based on a recent article that was published extolling its’ benefits. Just because it’s helpful for others doesn’t mean it will be for you.
The other aspect of selecting supplements is which brands to choose. Quality, not price, is what you want to focus on.
Top 5 Things to Consider When Buying Supplements
So here are a few other things to consider when shopping for supplements. If you’re following these suggestions you will be much more likely to end up with choices that are easily absorbed in the body, contain the ingredients and dosages they claim, minimize your risk for allergic reactions, and provide the benefit to your body that you desire.
- Watch for the GMP label, “Good Manufacturing Practice”. Sometimes it is called “cGMP – Current Good Manufacturing Practice”. This is a designation created and regulated by the FDA. While it is not a certification that the supplement will be effective, it does mean that the manufacturing process met specific quality standards. There is also the “NPA” – Natural Products Association which oversees the TruLabel program that ensures products meet the claims made on their labels.
2. Don’t assume the more expensive supplement is the best. Buying quality supplements has to do with how well it is manufactured, not price.
3. Choose “natural” versus “synthetic” whenever possible. There is a difference. Synthesized nutrients are mirror-images of their natural counter-parts, and it is a difference the human body can recognize. For instance, the natural version of vitamin E is three times more absorbable than its synthetic mirror-image [iv]. This doesn’t mean that synthetic vitamins are all bad, not at all. But the natural version is preferred because it is likely to be absorbed, metabolized and utilized more efficiently, which may give you better results.
4. Read labels – avoid using supplements that contain binders, fillers, lubricants, or common allergens such as wheat, corn, milk, yeast or artificial coloring. Some of these substances will be labeled “ingredients” or possibly “inactive ingredients”. Here’s a few you can watch for: microcrystalline cellulose,magnesium stearate, silica, vegetable gum, simethicone, stearic acid, propyl glycol, talc….to name a few[v].
5. Pay attention to what type of packaging is used. Supplements should be packaged in a tightly sealed, opaque or dark-colored container that protects the supplement inside it from external elements. Most nutrients will lose their potency and purity much faster if exposed to air, heat, contaminants, light or moisture.
The last thing I want you to know about supplements is more is NOT better. When you receive recommendations from a healthcare practitioner to take one or more supplements, take them according to their instructions or follow the instructions on the bottle. Do NOT take it upon yourself to increase dosages. While it is true that supplements are very safe and it is difficult to overdose on them, that doesn’t mean you couldn’t end up with gastric upset, diarrhea or some other undesirable condition.
Until next time, wishing you great health and happiness!
Note: This information is provided as a resource and for educational purposes only. These recommendations are not intended as a substitute for consulting a physician or licensed healthcare practitioner. If you are pregnant, consult your doctor before beginning any nutritional or dietary changes.
[i] U.S. Dept. for Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Dietary Supplement Use Among U.S. Adults Has Increased Since NHANES III(1988-1994)”. NCHS Brief No.61, April 2011
[ii] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Differences in Prevalence of Obesity Among Black, White, and Hispanic Adults—United States, 2006-2008. MMWR, July 17, 2009:58(27);740-44. Retrieved 9-28-15 from www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5827a2.htm
[iii] Weston A. Price Foundation (2000). “Weston A. Price, DDS”. Accessed 7-6-16 from www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/weston-a-price-dds/
[iv] Prasad, Kedar N., PhD (1994). Vitamins in Cancer Prevention and Treatment, Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.