Do you take a dietary supplement? Or a single vitamin, mineral, or combination supplement? Many people are popping supplements today than before. It is getting harder to ignore marketing industry into trying some of their “cure all” products. They seem to be what we’ve been looking for. Nutritional supplements are not an exception. They promise us energy, sexual impotency, weight loss, and cure for headaches, cure for colds and many other ailments. Some also claim to ward off most of our health worries or ailments.
Why do you take them? “My friend recommends I should” or “I read in a magazine that it prevents chronic diseases, or colds and flu”. The miracle remedy your friend raves about maybe inert or harmful for your system. It can be dangerous to self prescribe vitamin and supplements. Even though they are readily available, they should be administered under the care of a doctor or your health care provider.
Over the past few years, a string of studies have raised concerns that this practice could end up causing more harm than good to our bodies
What’s the downside?
These nutrients are not toxic, they’re essential but we need them in small amounts and in a certain balance. Excessive intake is harmful.
- Many people believe that extra vitamin C can prevent colds, supercharge the immune system, detoxify the body, protect the heart, fight cancer, and more. To date, though, evidence doesn’t support this claim. A recent Swedish study of 23,000 men followed up for 11 years has linked high dose of Vitamin C to kidney stones in Men and recommends a High dose vitamin C supplements should be avoided, particularly if an individual with history of kidney stone formation
- The use of high dose of beta carotene supplements by smokers actually may increase the risk of lung cancer, prostate cancer, intracerebral hemorrhage, and cardiovascular mortality. Beta-carotene from foods does not seem to have this effect.A recent NHI-AAARP diet and health study of 219, 059 men and 169,170 women followed up for 12 years revealed that high intake of supplemental calcium were associated with a significant increase in heart disease death in men. Other studies found that excess intake of calcium appear to increase the risk of prostate cancer. An exception is men who have osteoporosis, or thin bones, who may need a combination of calcium and vitamin D.
- Large doses of iron supplements can trigger an iron overload. This can damage body tissues and can raise the risk of heart disease, liver cancer, infections and arthritis. Your body can’t easily shed excess iron.
- High doses of Zinc supplements can trigger side effects, such as a depressed immune system, poor healing, hair loss and interference with taste and smell. It’s best to get zinc from food sources rather than supplements.
Supplements vs. whole foods
Supplements can replace the vitamins and minerals, but can’t replicate all the nutrients and benefits of whole foods such as fruits and vegetables, which lower risk of many diseases, including heart diseases, stroke, diabetes and cancer.
Some of the benefits of obtaining micro-nutrients from whole foods over dietary supplements:
- Whole foods come along with variety of other nutrients. For instance a citrus fruit provides vitamin C plus other essential nutrients such as potassium, folate, calcium, and variety of phytochemicals. A vitamin C supplement lacks these other micronutrients.
- Whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes, are a good source of dietary fibre. This is very important in prevention of diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease, and it can also help manage constipation.
- Fruits and vegetables contain phytochemicals, which may help protect you against cancer, heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.
- Whole foods are tasty than supplemental pills.
Who needs supplements?
If you’re generally healthy and eat a wide variety of foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, low-fat dairy products, lean meats and fish, you don’t need supplements.
However, Supplements may be recommended in treatment of various diseases and conditions. If you have a vitamin or mineral deficiency, such as iron deficiency, conditions such osteoporosis, then supplementation is required. Nutrition guidelines also recommend supplements or use of fortified foods in addition of eating a variety of different foods during pregnancy. In that case, your health care provider should recommend this.
You might be wondering why you bought all those supplements. We need to realize that, a supplement can improve some of the nutritional short comings of a good diet, but it won’t make up for a bad diet. You can’t live on French fries and Hamburger and Soda, then take a Multivitamin supplement and voila, you are healthy!
If you are concerned about chronic conditions, making few lifestyle changes; such as eating a healthy diet, exercising and getting enough sleep, reducing stress and maintaining a healthy weight are more likely to benefit your overall health.