To supplement or not to supplement, that is the question. The answer as to what, when, how much and how long is a more complex subject. Many companies’ promises fall flat and are overstated, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t believe anything. As with any product or promise, looking at the facts, your individual situation and proof provided by studies is important to determine what is right for you. I will share with you the frequently asked questions I get about supplements.
Are supplements necessary?
The answer to this question is it depends. Your age, state of health, where you live, what you eat and the quality of your food make a big difference. Many conditions can be improved with supplements even though they are not acceptable alone as treatment for medical conditions. Consider this food is not picked ripe, it loses nutrients in storage and cooking and not all of your nutrients are absorbed. Your need for supplements increases if you are under stress, exposed to everyday environmental toxins, and if you are on medication or have ailments.
- Nutritional surveys show that the general population does not eat sufficient quantities of vegetables and fiber that provide essential nutrients.
- The medical literature indicates that nutritional deficiencies are common.
- The medical literature links correction of nutritional deficiencies or use of nutrients in improving (not treating) many common health conditions.
Are supplements safe?
This is also a loaded question. The FDA does not regulate supplements. Supplement companies come and go. As an avid researcher, I check the medical literature, certifying organizations that do independent testing such as ConsumerLab, the International Fish Oil Standard, certificates of analysis and the FDA websites to determine the supplement brands, forms and dosages that are certified pure or those that are not or do not meet labeling requirements. Common areas of concern are:
- Many supplements do not meet labeling requirements and have too much or too little of what is stated on the label.
- Contamination with lead, mercury and even drugs is common.
- Use of poor quality ingredients, fillers, adulterants or synthetic forms is often used to keep costs low.
- In my clinical practice and in the medical literature, improper use of poor quality supplements have been shown to cause liver and kidney failure, hormone imbalances, heart rhythm disturbances and other problems
How do I know what to choose?
This is not an easy question. My research, clinical experience and the literature suggests that a broad spectrum multivitamin and mineral formula is beneficial along with fish oil ‘s active ingredients (EPA/DHA) and vitamin D3 with K2 as MK 7 are very helpful and cover most of the common nutritional deficiencies. They also have proven benefits. Each type of supplement has it’s own set of issues. Some things to look for are:
- Testing by an independent agency to assure potency, purity and the product has what it says on the label.
- While the use of the term clinical grade or pharmaceutical grade can be misused, most companies that use that term adhere to Good Manufacturing Processes (GMP) and use US Pharmacopea (USP) ingredients that meet FDA standards. This assures potency and purity but does not assure that you are getting the dose or form (type) that is most effective.
- If you are looking to enhance your health or improve a condition, looking at the supplements that were used in studies that showed benefit is the best solution.
- If you don’t have the time or patience to sort through all of this, consult a healthcare practitioner familiar with supplement use. Beware of sales people selling one size fits all formulas that may want to unload inventory on you or online sales that may be selling outdated, expired or inauthentic product.
- Use companies that have a long history of safety and efficacy, do research on their products, invest in innovation and are recommended by or used by medical professionals who specialize in this. They are more familiar with which supplements have the best results.
- Studies have shown that right supplements at the right dose and form taken at the right time for the right reason have proven benefits to improve weight, cholesterol, diabetes, mood, sleep, skin, brain, liver and gastrointestinal health, and prevent cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis and dementia among other things with minimal to no side effects.
Supplements can be safe and effective and have proven benefits when used appropriately. Replacing what your body may be missing is a more natural and holistic approach that can be tried before resorting to more aggressive treatment. Always consult with your doctor before starting a regimen to avoid interactions with medications or complications related to your individual condition.