Sunday, January 20, 2013

Supplements: Are they Necessary?

You walk into the pharmacy section of a grocery store and you're confronted with this:


Right. It's a whole section dedicated to dietary supplements. Dietary supplements are making the market now-a-days. Protein powder, fish oil, Vitamin D, Multi-Vitamins, Calcium, oh, and my favorite: Gummy Bear Vitamins. Those are the few of the many supplements out their in the market. All of these supplements make some sort of health claim. Examples include: "May Reduce the Risk of Coronary Heart Disease Risk" (in fish oil tablets), "May Reduce the Risk for Osteoporosis" (Calcium supplements)  or "Helps Lower Cholesterol" (fiber supplements).

 What is scary is that manufacturers don't necessarily have to register their products to the FDA. Even though they may have to register their facility, their products aren't necessarily regulated. So, only after something serious happens does the FDA remove the product from the market. Scary, right?

Fish oil may help reduce the risk of heart disease since fish are rich in omega 3's. Omega 3's, aka alpha-linolenic acid, is shown to help reduce the risk of heart disease. The are one of our essential fatty acids since our body cannot produce this. Omega 3's are precursors to important biological compounds which are produced in early every cell in our bodies. They regulate cellular function. Examples include blood clotting, blood pressure and the permeability of our blood vessels to fluid and large molecules.

However, you do not know the source of how manufacturers obtain this. For all you know, it could have come from the liver, which is toxic. It's better to consume the actual fish than consuming the fish oil supplements.

That is what I am trying to say. Supplements aren't necessary (for the most part) as long as you're consuming a balanced diet. Do you want to reduce your risk of heart disease by consuming the essential fatty acids? You might as well consume fish, flaxseeds, leafy greens, walnuts, nut oils, canola oil instead of taking supplements. I'm sure it's tastier too.

The calcium claim does make sense. It is essential to our bone health. However, our body can only absorb so much calcium at a time. The rest is excreted in our feces (poop). It can cause mineral imbalances, which may interfere with the absorption of other minerals and it may lead to kidney stones. It's mainly only due to calcium supplements that one can overdose on it. It can also lead to hypercalcemia (high blood calcium levels), which can result in accumulation of calcium deposits in soft tissue (liver, kidneys) which can cause failure of these organs.

There are risks when taking supplements because overdose can be fatal. We will get all our nutrients, vitamins, minerals as long as we consume a balanced diet. Which is why supplements ARE NOT necessary, for the most part.

Of course, there are certain conditions that may make them necessary. If you have certain health disease, it may require you to take a supplement. If you have cancer or just gotten out of surgery, they are necessary.

It is true that some vitamins are very hard to consume. One example is Vitamin D. There are very few food sources for vitamin D. Of course, foods are now fortified, which makes it less necessary to consume supplements. One example is milk. Milk is rich in calcium but they are FORTIFIED with vitamin D. It's added to it and it doesn't naturally occur in milk. Another example is our cereal. Have you checked the nutrition label? One of the vitamins they fortified it with is vitamin A.

Also, it is known that Americans don't consume a balanced diet and do not meet consume the recommended servings of foods they are suppose to eat. Take for example, fruits and vegetables. If they were to eat them (and the recommended servings), they would be consuming the nutrients they need. For now, they could benefit from multi-vitamins but they should still be consuming a balanced diet. After getting their levels back on track, they don't need the vitamins anymore.

The best way is to consume foods to get all the nutrients you need. It's much tastier, don't you think? 

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