Americans spend over $20 billion dollars per year on vitamins and supplements. So here is, literally, the billion dollar question… do we need to take supplements? And the answer is… it depends on what reason you are taking them.
1) Multivitamins and antioxidants for prevention of disease
Studies to date have not shown that multivitamins or antioxidants prevent disease or promote longevity. Many of my patients have figured out how to quickly find out my opinion about a topic. Just ask what I do or don’t do. So do I take supplements for this purpose? Yes. And here is why…
- Although I make a pretty good effort, I do not eat a perfectly balanced diet. I don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables in all colors of the rainbow, legumes, fish, nuts and seeds, and healthy oils. This is how we should get most of our vitamins and minerals. It is always best to get vitamins and minerals from the foods we eat; however, in order to do so, you really have to eat these foods at every meal.
- I don’t live on a farm or get all my produce from locally grown, organic farms. Mass produced produce that come from far, far away have been depleted of their vitamins and minerals, probably 30-40% of their nutrients. The food industry has genetically modified seeds (GMO) in order for them to grow faster, look prettier, and resist pesticides so that they can make more money, all at the detriment to the nutritional quality of the food.
- Although studies to date have not shown a benefit of multivitamins in preventing disease, these studies were not done using high quality supplements and quality is important (more on that topic next week) .
2) Vitamins and supplements taken due to a deficiency
Are you getting the vitamins and nutrients you need? Most of us do not know because we are not checking. See my blog on “6 tests that your doctors may not tell you about” for more about the FIA Micronutrient test. We can also do blood tests for Vitamin D (25-OH), Vitamin B12, and Iron (Ferritin) which are common deficiencies that can cause symptoms. For this purpose, vitamins and supplements are very important if the levels can’t be adequately increased through changes in diet.
3) Vitamins and/or supplements taken for a specific disease process
This is also another area that supplements can be extraordinarily helpful. Why not give your body something to assist the body with the healing process rather than give a drug that blocks the body’s normal processes. There will be much more on this later…