Supplements: Good or Not?
Updated: Feb 2, 2022
"We must understand how to nourish
ourselves with the right food"
The average Western diet quite frankly sucks! It is over processed and laden with salt and sugar, it lacks essential nutrients that keep us alive. It's no surprise then that many of us turn to supplements in the hope to not only make up for the short fall, but also to give us an extra health boost; a safeguard against disease!
Getting our nutrients straight from a pill seems the easy option, but does not equate to better health and if miss-managed is actually dangerous. Therefore, its hugely important to know where the source of nutrients come from and how to nourish ourselves with the right food because supplements are not the quick fix answer.
Healthy foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables and fish, contain nutrients and compounds which work together as a team to keep us healthy. It’s this synergistic effect of food nutrients and their compounds that is missing from supplements. Supplements lack the transporters and co-factors associated with naturally occurring nutrients because they have been “isolated". The isolation of a single nutrient is not recognised or used by the body in the same way as the natural version. take Turmeric for example:
Renowned for its medicinal properties, Turmeric supplements are everywhere. However, they are ineffective because the bioactive compound within turmeric, curcumin, cannot work in isolation, it requires black pepper and fat (olive oil, coconut oil, avocado etc) to facilitate its absorption into the body’s cells.
"No nutrient can be effective when
isolated and extracted from food!”
Here’s another thought; where do all these dietary supplements originate from! It’s a curious fact that when we think of drugs, we mostly think “artificial” but we think of supplements as nearly always “natural.” The truth is that drugs and supplements can be both artificial or natural. However, ‘natural’ isn’t as natural as it should be. Supplements labeled “natural” which include many vegetable, animal or mineral sources (e.g. vitamin D & E and fish liver oils) still have to undergo processing and refining before becoming a supplement.
“A vitamin marked as “natural” needs only to have
10% natural plant-derived ingredients
leaving 90% as synthetic”
The dietary supplement industry lacks proper regulation and a supplement marked as “natural” needs only to have 10% natural plant-derived ingredients leaving 90% as synthetic chemicals. The problem with a synthetic nutrient manufactured in a lab is although the molecular structure is identical to nutrients occurring in nature, the body’s enzymes do not recognize their “shape”. Enzymes work only on nutrients with the right “shape” and these are found in healthy food and not in synthetic supplements!
Ascorbic acid is a popular form of vitamin C and the synthetic version is mostly manufactured in China. Natural ascorbic acid is found within the vitamin C complex but in supplements ascorbic acid is made from either GMO corn starch or corn sugar! Synthetic versions of vitamin C contain chemical compounds that are not designed for human consumption and do not occur in nature. Synthetic ascorbic acid acts more like a drug in the body rather than a whole food nutrient with all the available co-factors. Taking any synthetic vitamin can cause imbalances in the body and should be avoided.
"Synthetic versions of vitamin C contain chemical compounds
that are not designed for human consumption"
Take Home Message:
Achieving optimal health requires us to focus on what we eat and not on reaching for the supplements. We should look to getting all our nutrients from whole foods because supplements will not promote health. Synthetic supplements are isolated man-made chemical compounds, that our body does not recognise, does not readily absorb and in some instances can cause adverse effects. Our evolutionary roots dictate that we eat food we can gather from the earth, not the food we create in a lab.
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Bjelakovic G, et al. (2007) Mortality in randomized trials of antioxidant supplements for primary and secondary prevention: systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA; 297:842-857.
Epstein D & Dohrmann G. (2009) What you don’t know might kill you Sports Illustrated.
Vandamme EJ. (1992) Production of vitamins, coenzymes and related biochemicals by biotechnological processes. J Chem Tech Biotechnol; 53:313-327.