Do dietary supplements really work?
We all take some sort of supplements. Multivitamin, fiber, vitamin D, protein, etc. We love to treat ourselves with a little pill that will make us healthier. But does it really? Do dietary supplements really work?
The short answer is they work in many ways: good, bad and not at all. And it’s up to you, to choose which way they’ll work in..depending what kind of supplements you buy.
There are so many opinions and experiences when it comes to dietary supplements:
- Does your body use the supplements and it actually helps?
- Do you just pee it out and wasting money on it?
- Is it harmless or dangerous taking dietary supplements?
- Is anything in them anyway?
Where can we find legit info about dietary supplements?
Today, we’ll see how murky the dietary supplements waters are, and try to learn how to find the right, safe supplement for yourself. And lastly if they actually do what they’re supposed to do. Help us improve health.
I take supplements myself so I don’t want you to say no to supplements but you need to educate yourself before buying them. Read this post through because this is the information you really should know.
What’s considered a dietary supplement?
Dietary supplements are considered harmless and natural. People have been using herbs for 1000s of years, long before pharmaceutical were around. Using plants as a remedy is nothing new, very familiar and safe.
I think this is why the dietary supplement industry boomed so quickly. It’s appealing and so convenient to take something natural and help your body to heal. It feels good to treat yourself like that.
Dietary supplements are technically considered to be anything that
grows from the ground or that you can get from an animal.
Vitamin D is the most popular with vitamin C and Calcium, then Omega 3 fatty acid, and so on.
Dietary supplements are also:
- dietary fiber,
- phytomedicals or botanics like garlic and ginseng,
- minerals like iron and zinc, etc.
All of them and much more are considered a dietary supplements.
Why is it so difficult to find a good dietary supplement?
The short answer and a thing to remember is: because nobody’s watching the people making dietary supplements.
There are so many studies on both sides – consumer safety and dietary industry – saying completely opposite things about one specific vitamin.
Opposite statements such: menopausal women should take Calcium to keep bone density vs. No, don’t take Calcium during and after menopause because it forms kidney stone..in fact, don’t even take Calcium supplements at all – diet is enough.
To these opposing articles, there’s no follow-up research done.
This makes it tougher on us, to find a good, safe supplement. No one really knows what’s the deal with dietary supplements. And how did that happen?
According to Gary Smith, MD, DrPH, senior author of the study and director of the Center of Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s: “Many consumers believe dietary supplements are held to the same safety standards as over-the-counter medications. However, dietary supplements are not considered drug, thus they are not required to undergo clinical trials or obtain approval from the FDA prior to sale, unless the product is labeled as intended for therapeutic use.” (Source: ScienceDaily )
This means, Food and Drug Administration regulates food and drug – supplement is neither.
So who then watches over the $40 billion dietary supplements industry? (Source: FindLaw)
Answer: No one.
No one regulates dietary supplements. They are like street drugs – cheap, accessible, magic pill.
Dietary supplements aren’t as innocent as we think
The entire $40 billion industry is based on honor system.
There’s a study (I forgot which, sorry) that states 746 supplements have been recalled or adulterated. They have found an actual prescription drug, allergens, chemicals, fillers, etc. that weren’t stated on the label.
This means that 746 dietary supplements weren’t what the producer claimed they were.
The 746 products were flagged. Only 360 of 746 have been removed. And later, 10% of the 360 went back on the market, unchanged, under a different label.
What is more, a lot of products that FDA said no to, because they found them to dangerous came out as a dietary supplements.
This is why, you shouldn’t just walk in a chemist and get a supplement because it sounds good.
Dietary supplements to be avoided
- Bitter orange can lead to heart attack and stroke,
- Colloidal silver can turn you blue permanently,
- Coltsfoot has been linked to liver damage and cancer,
- Country mallow can cause heart attack and heart rhythm disturbances as well as stroke,
- Yohimbe bark has been linked to high blood pressure, rapid heart rate and – when taken at high doses – severe low blood pressure, heart problems and even death,
- Lobelia can cause fast heartbeat, low blood pressure, coma and even death,
- Kava can cause liver damage,
- Greater Celandine can cause liver damage,
- Germanium can cause kidney damage and even death,
- Comfrey has been linked to liver damage and cancer,
- Chaparral can cause liver and kidney problems,
- Aconite can cause nausea, vomiting, low blood pressure and heart rhythm disorders. It’s even been linked to respiratory system paralysis and death.
How to find dietary supplements that are safe
How do you find safe supplements that aren’t tainted and misleading?
There are couple of independent organizations testing supplements.
One of them is US pharmacopia. They have a good website where they have a list of supplements that they tested and the results showed they are what the labels say it is. These supplements are safe and they’re labeled by US pharmacopia.
Another one is ConsumerLAB.com.
The next time you want to buy some supplements, look for these.
Dietary supplements and diet
If you’re a healthy person eating wholefoods, real food – no matter if you’re a vegan, vegetarian or a meat eater, you should take two dietary supplements: vitamin D and vitamin B12.
Vitamin D3 for vegetarians and omnivores, vitamin D2 for vegans. And vitamin B12 for everybody.
If there’s something specific going on with your body, you may need other supplements which should be prescribed to you by your doctor or dietitian. I find dietitians better for such things because doctor have very little to no education about nutrition and diet.
A healthy, balanced, plant prevalent diet should give you enough nutrients to live happily.
To supplement or not to supplement?
I don’t want to tell you not to take supplements. I take them myself and believe they work as long as you do your research beforehand. However, before stocking up on them, turn to food. Turn to whole food, plant based food.
Eating wholefood that we were meant to it in the first place, is clearly the best thing to do.
Although I couldn’t find or come up with the actual answer if dietary supplements really work, I do know that no matter how good supplements you take, your body won’t take anything from it if you don’t consume phytochemicals as well. Phytochemicals are plant chemical, good chemicals, you can only get from plants. You can’t get it from supplements or animal products.
Phytochemicals in plants do all the stuff we don’t need to live but go from surviving to thriving. For example, you don’t need shiny hair, but you want it. Or glowing skin. Or healthy gut.
In other words, supplements are lonely vitamins that can’t work on their own. But when eating whole food you get the vitamins with other stuff your body needs to work. (Source: Harvard Health Publishing)
Next, if you see a supplement that says something like “100% safe, will give you an erection, you will lose weight”, or anything in connection with sexual performance or weight loss – be super suspicious of it. If they really work, they have some pharmaceutical drugs in them that aren’t on the label, and this is super, super dangerous for you.
It looks like dietary supplements work in all ways, good, bad and not at all.
Before you start taking supplements, change your diet, spend your money on wholefoods instead of supplements.
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Till next time,