Should I Supplement? Or Is It A Waste Of Money?

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Reading Time: 12 minutes

I’m sure many of you have seen so many headlines out there saying that “supplements are a waste of money” and that they have no health benefits. Some even promote the fact that not only do they not work, they may be harmful to you. The truth is, many of these articles are written by journalists who have little education on the subject of nutrition and dietary supplements, not only have they never specialised in that field, they often misinterpret new research coming into light. Not only are they barely educated on the facts about nutrition and its benefits, most articles are based on a mere number of scientific studies which are almost always cherry-picked to support their opinions.

Put it this way, if you could eat an optimum diet which allows you to hit all the RDI’s then you’re doing well. But really ask yourself, do you think you’re actually getting everything in your diet? I’m talking both macro and micro-nutrients! If not then you should consider supplementing to help you get to your target.

A few easy questions to ask yourself, are you getting enough protein everyday? Are you getting enough calcium? Enough fibre? Enough vitamin D? When you google the defiency stats for those nutrients, you’ll see that a high number of us get no where near what is recommended. Now keep in mind the government RDI’s are the bare minimum we should be taking to prevent disease. What happens if you want to increase your odds or repair something?

Now a huge problem is that we are living much longer now. As modern medicine improves, the life span is longer but for some reason, the incidence of chronic disease is also on the rise. What does that mean? It means we are getting sicker earlier, suffering longer and dying much later. Sure, living longer might be better and you might be saying well I’m not dying as early but would you really want to suffer for longer? Take diabetes for example, would you rather have diabetes for 60 out of your 90 years of life?

Now back to the idea of supplements, should we take them? Why? How? What? Let’s find out.

So, to make it easier for you, I’ll help you out. First, ask yourself a few questions:

1. Why do we need to supplement?

In reality, if we lived in a perfect world with a perfect diet, we probably wouldn’t need to supplement. But the changes that have occurred in the modern world in the last 100 years with commercial agriculture have left us with a scarcity of nutrients in the standard diets. Most of us do not eat a balanced diet that has enough of the required vitamins, mineral, antioxidants and plant-based nutrients to provide us with protection for long term health. It is so important that we supplement our diets with high-quality supplements to protect ourselves. For those of you who have not read my previous article; How much nutrition is actually in our food? Please glance over it quickly.

TL;DR over the last few decades, we have depleted nutrient levels in our foods due to mass agriculture and processing to the point that we are suffering from multiple micronutrient deficiencies which is the genesis of degenerative disease. Depleted topsoil = depleted food = depleted nutrient level in human = degenerative disease = suffering.

Now I’m just going to elaborate a little on our state of agriculture. Our soil has suffered serious erosion from over-cultivation, how we cultivate our crops and how we use high-intensity agricultural practices today is very different to how we grew our food 100 years ago. This process of high yield extraction virtually depletes the soils. Now when the soils can no longer sustain healthy plant growth, we throw on the nitrate phosphate potassium (NPK)  fertilisers that were really left over from the 2nd World War. Although they grow great vegetables, while they look good, they are actually deficient in several micronutrients that our body needs. Also when we use the chemical fertilisers, they acidify the soil and make it more susceptible to insects which result in the use of herbicides and pesticides. Combined with the global fast food culture which sells food with high levels of fat, sugar, and salt which most definitely isn’t good for us and along with the paucity of micronutrients which are needed for long-term health, we are setting ourselves up for degenerative disease. The level of oxidative stress in the body is just incredibly high in those conditions.

2. Is it safe?

The last thing you want to do is take a supplement for the rest of your life and find out it’s harming you. In the 2004 annual report of the American Association of Poison control centres, it has been reported that there have been fewer deaths caused by dietary supplements than by air fresheners. That’s right, air fresheners…

In the USA, there are more people killed every year through accidental deaths by taking prescription drugs than the entire Vietnam War.

danger bar

 

In natural health products, this one death was caused by an overdose of iron tablets. The individual was killed by an overload of iron. Over the counter drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen cause about 16,500 deaths a year and furthermore prescription drugs contribute to about 106,000 deaths a year in the US. From this chart we can see the risk of having a harmful reaction from supplements is much lower than any other drug or painkiller as long as it’s taken with professional guidance and advice.

The real safety issue is actually how supplements are made. Less than a third of the supplements made in the United States have a level of safety supported with evidence. There is so much contamination, adulteration and mislabeling on the products in not only the US but all over the world. That is why adherence to the pharmaceutical manufacturing practices of pharmaceutical Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) are absolutely essential. This is the key to the safety of the product. GMP’s validate all the raw materials that go the product with written records at all phases of production and tests for dissolution, disintegration, stability, shelf life, microbial contamination, identity, purity, and potency. These properties are tested over and over and over again to ensure that they are of the highest standard. That is the difference between GMP standard products and food grade shelf products. There should be NO SHORTCUTS to your well being.

pills
This is an x-ray image taken days after the ingestion of some substandard brand. More than often the tablets will pass days after ingestion and you can still read the labeling on it.

When a product doesn’t disintegrate, the body can’t absorb it thus it can not use it. This is why disintegration is very important! You only get proper disintegration with products manufactured at pharmaceutical grades. How a product is manufactured is just as important as what is in the product. Pharmaceutical GMP ensures safety and purity. It ensures, what is on the label is actually in the bottle. It is the only way to ensure the quality of a product.

Read more about GMPs here from the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA): https://www.tga.gov.au/good-manufacturing-practice-overview

That brings us to our third question:

3. Is it effective?

Heart disease, cancer, respiratory disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s and diabetes are the six major killers. The interesting thing about these are that they are lifestyle related diseases which mean they are almost entirely preventable with a proper diet and exercise regime. Almost 80% of America’s non-accidental deaths are a result of one of these six diseases. Regardless of which country you live in, the majority of people which die every year are a result of degenerative diseases.

To help you understand the effectiveness of nutrients, we will slightly touch on the Vitamin D and Iodine, both of which are not prevalent in our diets today and how by supplementing with these two nutrients we can avoid the risks of so many diseases including cancers.

Let’s take a closer look at cancer. Over 2,500 studies confirm that Vitamin D is protective against all cancers. With the risk of men with low levels of Vitamin D having triple the risk of men with sufficient vitamin D (Grant, 2006). Also having just 1000IU/day of Vitamin D reduces colorectal cancer risk by 50% (Gorham et al., 2005). Now, these adverse effects are not the result of a pharmaceutical drug, it is actually the result of a very inexpensive natural supplement. In addition to these results, a 4 year double blind, placebo controlled clinical trial of post-menopausal women showed that just 1,500mg/day and 1,100 IU of Vitamin D reduced the risk of dying from ALL cancers by more than 65% and concluded that Vitamin D may be the single most effective means of preventing cancer (Lappe et al., 2007). Moving on to breast cancer, the element Iodine kills cancers cells through apoptosis where the cell commits cellular suicide. Breast cancer patients are very deficient in iodine (Smyth, 1993). Iodine inhibits cancer promotion by regulating several genes involved in cell growth (Stoddard et al., 2008). When you supplement with iodine your risk of breast cancer and other breast-related diseases reduces substantially. Iodine has been found to inhibit cancer promotion by regulating genes involved in cellular growth and function. This element is extremely important in breast health which I’m sure affects 50% of you readers. Below is an important quote in regards to Iodine taken from The Journal of Epidemial Community Health (Wiseman, 2000).

“There is a single putative factor protective against breast cancer – one that is fat soluble and diminished by fat intakes – the depletion of which is responsible for the vast majority of cases”

Supplements should never replace a balanced diet, they should be used to serve as a filler for your nutritional gaps. It is recommended to seek professional advice before supplementing, especially if you are on medication. Supplements are used to help you achieve optimal health when combined with proper exercise and diet.

I personally believe that everyone should have a minimum of a high quality multivitamin in their diet and a vitamin D during winter. However you can choose which supplements you need to add based on your diets and goals, everyone is unique and has different needs! But at it’s very foundation, trust in quality, not in advertising. Stay up to date on my guide on how to choose supplements.

So what do you think? Is supplementation necessary for you? Is it something you think will add value to your everyday life? Or have you been thinking about supplementation and not sure how to go about it and which brands to take?

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References:

FINEGOLD, J. A., ASARIA, P. & FRANCIS, D. P. 2013. Mortality from ischaemic heart disease by country, region, and age: Statistics from World Health Organisation and United Nations. International journal of cardiology, 168, 934-945.

GORHAM, E. D., GARLAND, C. F., GARLAND, F. C., GRANT, W. B., MOHR, S. B., LIPKIN, M., NEWMARK, H. L., GIOVANNUCCI, E., WEI, M. & HOLICK, M. F. 2005. Vitamin D and prevention of colorectal cancer. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol, 97, 179-94.

GRANT, W. B. 2006. Epidemiology of disease risks in relation to vitamin D insufficiency. Prog Biophys Mol Biol, 92, 65-79.

JEMAL, A., BRAY, F., CENTER, M. M., FERLAY, J., WARD, E. & FORMAN, D. 2011. Global cancer statistics. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, 61, 69-90.

LAPPE, J. M., TRAVERS-GUSTAFSON, D., DAVIES, K. M., RECKER, R. R. & HEANEY, R. P. 2007. Vitamin D and calcium supplementation reduces cancer risk: results of a randomized trial. Am J Clin Nutr, 85, 1586-91.

SMYTH, P. P. 1993. Thyroid disease and breast cancer. J Endocrinol Invest, 16, 396-401.

STODDARD, F. R., 2ND, BROOKS, A. D., ESKIN, B. A. & JOHANNES, G. J. 2008. Iodine alters gene expression in the MCF7 breast cancer cell line: evidence for an anti-estrogen effect of iodine. Int J Med Sci, 5, 189-96.

WATSON, W. A., LITOVITZ, T. L., RODGERS, G. C., JR., KLEIN-SCHWARTZ, W., REID, N., YOUNISS, J., FLANAGAN, A. & WRUK, K. M. 2005. 2004 Annual report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers Toxic Exposure Surveillance System. Am J Emerg Med, 23, 589-666.

WISEMAN, R. A. 2000. Breast cancer hypothesis: a single cause for the majority of cases. J Epidemiol Community Health, 54, 851-8.

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2 thoughts on “Should I Supplement? Or Is It A Waste Of Money?

    1. Hi Yogibanker,

      I am not entire familiar with Pyroluria, however I do know that proper nutritional therapy can provide a great benefit for many people! Thank you for your support.

      Like

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