Some big, unfounded rumors are circulating about nutritional supplements.
And they’re circulating under the guise of science and experience. But instead of helping you make wiser choices for your health, they do the opposite. They make it harder.
Because these false tales ignore volumes of research and several thousands of years of human healing practices using food, herbs and minerals.
What fallacies am I talking about?
A December 2013 editorial published in The Annals Of Internal Medicine, titled “Enough Is Enough: Stop Wasting Money on Vitamin and Mineral Supplements” concluded:
“We believe that the case is closed- supplementing the diet of well-nourished adults with (most) mineral or vitamin supplements has no clear benefit and might even be harmful. These vitamins should not be used for chronic disease prevention. Enough is enough.”
Now here’s the thing… I agree we need to pay attention to results of the studies the authors referred to when they came to this conclusion. This editorial refers to several recent studies. Each of these studies underscores some important reasons why nutritional supplements don’t work in specific situations.
But other than that, they’re dead wrong.
Because if anything these studies only highlight the mistakes people and doctors make when it comes to using supplements. Simply put, when people choose poor quality supplements and use the wrong supplement for the wrong reasons, supplements don’t do much good.
In contrast, as hundreds of people who have consulted with me as a doctor have discovered, when you choose the right, high quality supplement for the right health concern, you’ll see the benefits.
The key is to make knowledgeable choices.
A single article is too limited to cover 40 plus years of knowledge I draw from in recommending supplements to my patients. But I can offer some basic guidelines that will help you make better choices when you use supplements.
Here’s what you need to look out for in order to ensure the nutritional supplements you use work.
Get The Right Dose Of Nutrition
Three of the studies the editorial team used to make their case showed multivitamins did little to change the risk of brain problems, cardiovascular issues after a heart attack or overall health risks for older people.
I wasn’t surprised by this.
In trying to cover the whole spectrum of nutrition without overdoing it in any one area, multivitamins usually only offer a small percentage of the nutrients you need to take care of a specific health concern. And often enough they include nutrients you don’t even need depending on how you eat.
For example, most multivitamins contain 400 IU or less of vitamin D. While this is the official recommended daily allowance for vitamin D, most holistic doctors would consider this a drop in the bucket when it comes to raising your blood vitamin D levels.
I have my patients get blood tests to assess vitamin D levels and then recommend supplements accordingly. Often enough, I recommend at least 1000 IU – sometimes as much as 5000 IU – to get them to healthy vitamin D levels in the blood.
Multivitamins provide a baseline for nutrition. Not strategic intervention that can really make a difference.
And this brings me to the next issue…
Choose The Best Nutritional Supplements For Your Specific Needs
Just because vitamin A supplementation worked for your neighbor, doesn’t mean it will work for you.
Perhaps you eat lots of winter squash and chlorella, rich in this vitamin. You don’t need a supplement.
Not everyone needs the same amount of supplementation.
Supplementation works best when it’s tailored to your individual health concerns, eating habits, lifestyle and genetic makeup. When adding supplements to your diet, start with you – with what you’re struggling with and what you know are your weak points.
This is why studies involving people without any nutritional deficiencies to assess the effectiveness of supplements may have had less significant results.
It’s also why multivitamins have limited effectiveness. The higher quality ones may give you a nice nutritional base. But they do little to offer you the strategic nutrition that thousands of studies have shown can make a difference with specific health concerns.
But it doesn’t matter what dose of supplement you choose, if you don’t pay attention to this next issue, you won’t get what you need…
Choose Natural Supplements
Synthetic versions of vitamins can not only be less effective, they can be dangerous. As the Annals of Internal Medicine editorial team correctly pointed out, some research has shown that vitamin A supplementation can in fact increase your risk of lung cancer.
However, if you get the precursor for vitamin A that’s found in chlorella and other whole foods – beta carotene – you don’t have to worry. Unlike with vitamin A, your body only converts the beta-carotene it needs and gets rid of the rest.
Natural substances are hard to mimic in a chemistry lab. We may do a pretty good job, but several different vitamin studies have shown that synthetic forms of vitamins – like the ones used in several vitamin A and E studies – can disrupt the way your body uses nutrition.
But even if you go natural, you still need to pay keen attention to the next criterion.