On Dietary Supplements:What Experts Say

by Marianne
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Supplements are convenient and make us feel like we are taking extra care of ourselves. Since the pervading attitude is that having too much of a good thing can’t be that bad, we usually don’t think twice about taking in more vitamins and supplements. But are they worth it?

In a paper published by the Annals of Internal Medicine titled “Stop Wasting Money on Vitamin and Mineral Supplements”, they claim that, you got it—supplements and vitamins are a waste of your hard-earned dollars. Put simply, researchers concluded that supplements “do not prevent chronic diseases or death” and “their use is not justified, and they should be avoided. This message is especially true for the general population with no clear evidence of micronutrient deficiencies.”

In another paper published this year, researchers found that supplements do not replace the nutrition from food, so if you’re taking supplements and think you can skip certain food groups as a consequence, this is a reminder that popping a pill is not the same as getting your nutrition from the original sources.

If there’s a group that can benefit from dietary supplements, it’s the elderly or ones that have dietary restrictions.

Source | Time Magazine

The researchers also warn that supplements may come with health risks, although there is much to be done in understanding how supplements actually affect the body negatively.

Green Tea Supplements

Jim McCants took green tea supplements for 2-3 months when he became ill and needed a liver transplant. McCants, who still has health problems after the transplant, is suing.

According to Professor Bonkovsky, who has been tracking injuries linked to green tea for more than 20 years:

”If you are drinking modest amounts of green tea you’re very safe”…”The greater risk comes in people who are taking these more concentrated extracts.”

Source | BBC

Professor Bonkovsky is the Director of liver services at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in North Carolina.

In an interview, McCants states: “I didn’t expect harm. I expected that I might waste my money, I may take these and they don’t do a bit of good. I can accept that risk,” he says. “But the risk that it could cause my liver to fail, that’s a risk that’s too high for somebody to take.”

About 50% of American adults take some form of supplements and spent $12 billion on vitamins (2013). McCants’ approach might be the prevalent mentality for health-conscious folks who just want to do an extra good for their bodies.

Vitamins and supplements are loosely regulated in the US. It’s also easy to get caught up with the buzzwords surrounding supplements. In a recent grocery trip, I was approached by a marketing representative listing the benefits of turmeric pills, from having anti-oxidant properties, curing inflammation, to improving my skin. It’s tempting–all those benefits, in a $20 bottle.

The point here is to not take supplements lightly. They can’t replace the nutrients from a healthy diet and if you do decide to take them, it’s a good idea to consult with a licensed physician.

Mindful Questions

  • Are you relying too much on supplements to get your essential vitamins and nutrients?
  • When did you start taking the supplements and did you consult a health professional about them?
  • How much are you spending on supplements?
  • Are you better off spending the money on other wellness endeavors?

*Always consult with a licensed and certified physician for any medical advice. Note that these examples are not for specific cases, such as pregnancy, elderly or those with dietary restrictions.

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