The supplement industry is a multibillion dollar a year business. Involved companies produce anything and everything in a powder or pill form. We get supplements pushed on us from personal trainers, dietitians, nutritionists and doctors almost as much as pharmaceuticals. Many ask “Do I need to take supplements, such as vitamins, if I eat a healthy diet?”
I am not going to provide you a simple “yes” or “no” but I will provide you with the information you need to make your own educated decision. While reading the following think about your daily routine and where you get your food, how you prepare it and the environment in which you are living. These are a few of the factors that determine whether or not you need to supplement your diet with vitamins and minerals.
As agriculture has become a worldwide industry with billions of crops produced per year, our soil has taken a beating. Many advocates for nutrient supplementation will say that our soil does not contain the same amount of minerals as it did 50-60 years ago. This statement makes sense, but I could not find any studies proving it. However, I did not find any studies disproving this theory either.
What I did find was that farmers today are only putting three out of the seventeen elements back into the soil for re-growing crops (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium). Therefore, an imbalance of nutrients is being consumed by humans and the animals we eat. This may cause imbalances in the body which need correcting through supplementation.
When you go shopping next, notice where your food was grown. Long transit times decrease the freshness of the food. Decreased freshness means less nutrients. Even though you are eating an orange just bought from the store, it may be a week old already. The best way to ensure high nutrient value by decreasing transit time is to find a local farmer or farmer’s market. Choose food that was picked that same day.
Between processing our foods and cooking them in microwaves or charing them on the grill, our society has found many ways to “suck” nutrients out of food. Eating as raw as possible is the best way to maintain nutrient value in your food.
The US government has given nutrient guidelines for the American people to follow. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans has stated:
“A fundamental premise of the Dietary Guidelines is that nutrients should come primarily from foods. Foods in nutrient-dense, mostly intact forms contain not only the essential vitamins and minerals that are often contained in nutrient supplements but also dietary fiber and other naturally occurring substances that may have positive health effects.”
You will find that there is no documentation supporting or opposing the use of nutritional supplements. However, even on the healthiest of diets, most of these numbers are so high that there is no way of achieving the RDA without supplementation.
Robert Post, deputy director of the U.S. Agriculture’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion made another, almost contradictory statement,
“…Too few Americans are meeting their nutritional requirements and that dietary supplements, used sensibly, can help fill gaps in our diets.”
I know, sometimes I get just as confused as you. The government has two statements which contradict each other. Like I said earlier, I am just trying to provide you with information! Moving on.
Stress & Environment
Stress and environment play a huge role in your health and which nutrients are depleted from your bodies. Stress weakens the immune system and causes imbalances in your hormones. Hormones regulate fat distribution, sex drive and performance to name a few. All which have a direct effect on your lives and health. Supplementation can help to re-regulate our system and expel toxins (also known as cleansing). Speaking with a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner or hormone replacement specialist is your best path at proper supplementation for these specific issues.
Environmental stress also has a direct impact on your health. An excerpt from Charles Poliquin’s blog describes this message as follows:
“Environment toxins. The US Environmental Protection Agency published a report in 2002 that said more than 7.1 billion pounds of 650 different chemicals had been released into the air or water – and 266 of these chemicals are associated with birth defects. For the past 28 years Dr. Mark Schauss, MBA, DB, has been studying medical research concerning the effects of toxins on our health. Says Schauss, “In a study by an environmental group on people not working in industry, such as teachers and journalists, the researchers found that the blood of the subjects contained nearly 100 chemicals that did not exist 40 years ago.” Fortunately, many of these pollutants can be detoxified by natural supplements such as glycine, vitamin C, selenium, and N-acetylcysteine.”
Research has found that due to environment, stress, and pesticides most of us do not produce enough digestive enzymes to properly absorb nutrients that we eat. This refers to both food and supplements. However, with the use of proper supplementation such as pepsin and betaine HCl combinations, we can aid digestive enzyme functioning to better absorb what we eat.
Conclusion and Final Thoughts on Supplements
These factors are the most common that I could find. There is still insufficient research proving or disproving the need for nutritional supplements. Some critics will also say that eating organic will reduce the need for supplements. However, a recent study found in the British Food Journal proves that organic food is no more nutrient dense than non-organic. An interesting omission was the study did not test the effects of all the additional pesticides on non-organic foods. If you are interested in organic eating, check out ‘Is It Worth The Extra Cost to Eat Organic?’.
I hope this article can help you decide if supplements are worth taking for your health. Most Americans do not eat regularly which adds to the problem and when they do eat it is not to the standards that would be beneficial to maintaining health. There are reasons for either decision, but considering the facts it seems that we need supplements to counteract other variables that our ancestors did not encounter.
Rich Jacobs is a Board Certified Integrative and Functional Nutrition Practitioner who specializes in resolving gut, insomnia, low libido, fatigue and fat issues. He uses a holistic approach and functional lab work to identify root causes such as hormone imbalances or gut pathogens that could be impacting your health.