Do dietary supplements really work?

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? 

spending money on 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:

  • probiotics,
  • 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. 

multivitamin
phytomedicals

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?

Every 24 minutes poison control receives a call from dietary supplement reactions.

That’s 275000 calls yearly. (Source: ScienceDaily.com)

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. 

Do dietary supplements really work
Dietary supplements are like street drugs. But legal.

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.

The list goes on and these are only couple of them (Source: CBSnews.com )

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. 

USPlogo

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. 

Vitamin D3 for vegetarians and omnivores.

Vitamin D2 for vegans.

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. 

If you liked what you’ve read, please leave a comment bellow so we can chat some more. Your comment help to push this post so more people can read it and find the info they were looking for.   

You can also find me on social platforms, under the “Rudimental Pantry”..just click that FB icon below and I’ll talk to you soon.

I love hearing from you guys.


Till next time,
Katya

18 thoughts on “Do dietary supplements really work?”

  1. And now I have to be afraid for the sake if my health. I find it hard to believe all I’ve read on this post concerning dietary supplements because I make use of them and they’ve been recommended by my dietician. Seriously, I don’t know such scandals exists in this supplement industry. Though I never knew about the labelled that would certify safety of use of a supplement. I just checked the case of almost 7supplements in my house right now and none of them has the labelling. Wow! Thanks for bringing this information to us. Such enlightenment

    Reply
    • Hi RoDarrick, being recommended by your dietitian, I think you’re in good hands and don’t need to fear for your health 🙂 Supplements work for a lot of people so don’t stress too much, in fact you can research your 7 supplements and see what comes up. I sure they’re good. 

      I find that vitamins are normally safe, but when it comes to sexual performance, bodybuilding and weight loss..that’s where the stuff gets weird. 

      I mean, doing all this research on supplements I don’t really know what to think. I take supplements and some aren’t approved by USP..but I did research each and every one of them before taking it. 

      Best,

      Katya

      Reply
  2. This is a really good post. I have friends who love taking supplements but I don’t know if the supplements are dietary or not. Having read what you have written here, I think the best thing to take is to eat whole food and even if you’re going to take supplements at all, you should consult the doctor. I once wanted to take supplements for erection but I changed my mind. Now I’m learning u made a right decision. Thanks for the educative post on supplements.

    Reply
    • Hi Henderson, thanks for leaving your comment. It was…still is interesting for me too to find out it’s on us, consumers to pretty much experiment on ourselves with supplements.

      Don’t take erectile or any “performance” supplements without a solid research..they either don’t work and you’re wasting money, or do work and have an actual pharmaceutical drug in them that should be regulated. There’re ways to work things out without supplementation.

      Best,

      Katya

      Reply
  3. I am a critic of dietary supplements but only so because some are better at controlling their intake than others and at the end of the day it is up to the individual as to how they manage their health. Everyones situation and condition is not the same and therefore, there is a need to have options. I am grateful though for having the opportunity to learn more about the subject as you have done with this article. 

    Reply
    • Hi Rina, I agree with you, everyone’s different and should have a choice how to manage their health. If it’s by diet, exercise or supplementation it completely up to an individual. 

      Doing research on this was really interesting and I might come across as anti-supplement person but I’m not. I’m just surprised by how big the grey zone is. And my sole purpose of this post is to make us aware of it.

      Best,

      Katya  

      Reply
  4. I’ve been taking vitamins for years now and never really thought what was in them, I just thought they were meant to be good for me but you have me second guessing the whole dietary supplement industry now

    I am a big believer that a healthy diet is way better than anything that comes in a tablet or capsule form so maybe I should just stick to that and stop taking the vitamins 

    Do you think multi-vitamins do anything to our bodies in the long run?

    Reply
    • Hi Matthew, I feel the same after doing this research and I don’t know what’s the right answer – I don’t think there is one. 

      In my opinion, wholefood plant based diet is the best thing to do in any situation. And then, depending on your personal going ons, finding a good dietitian and listen to him/her.

      Best,

      Katya

      Reply
  5. So after reading your article I do believe that supplements are necessary and vital for good health.  I want to compliment you on such a thorough article. I liked the section on what to avoid…very critical that these supplements are not only unnecessary but actually harmful for you.

    I was enlightened about the USP and consumer lab.  I think these organizations are doing a very important public service since there is no official government service picking up the mantle on this important issue.

    Thank you again for this information.

    Reply
    • Hi TimMoto, not quite so –  the necessary and vital for good health is real food and only then supplements, sometimes. Food is what your body uses to be you, what you eat becomes you so it’s so important to eat healthy. And I know we read about healthy diet and wholefoods and real food and unprocessed food everywhere..but it really is this important.

      Supplements are only helpers, an addition to diet. And I think a lot of people think they can make up for eating naughty by taking supplements, which isn’t true. A bad diet leads to bad health no matter the supplements.

      Best,

      Katya

      Reply
  6. Hi Katya, I have been taking vitamins all my life.  I don’t know if they are considered dietary supplements or not.  What I will say is, I don’t seem to get as sick as often as other people do.  I normally take a One A Day multivitamin for men 50+, extra vitamin C and extra vitamin D.  My doctor knows I take these vitamins and has never said to stop taking them.

    But, as you said, doctors don’t really have any training on this subject matter.  Another thing, I take my vitamins in the morning after I eat breakfast.  If I take them on an empty stomach I get pretty nauseous. 

    I’m hoping since I’ve been taking vitamins all my life it will help as I get older.

    Great post and thanks for sharing!

    Cal

    Reply
    • Hi Cal, I’m glad you Multivitamin works good for you. You can do a little research on your supplement out of curiosity. I don’t know why you would get nauseous but I’m sure your doctor would know the answer to it. 

      Best,

      Katya

      Reply
  7. Wow, i was greatly blessed about taking supplements and even what to do before taking any,You have done a wonderful job for exposing me to this,please let me ask this,that means from now we should not take any supplements without confirming it here US pharmacopia? You have really save a life for this article

    Reply
    • Abayomi, if you have your favorite brand of supplements that work for you, stick with it. You know it and it works and that’s all good. However, if want to try something new, then yes, I recommend you check it on USP site, ConsumerLAB has constant updates on sketchy supplements as well and then from there, navigate your selection.

      Another way is to google it, read reviews, see if anything weird pops out. Basically, just do a little research before buying new supplements. Supplements with USP are the tested but that doesn’t mean they’re the only supplements that are good. 

      Best,

      Katya

      Reply
  8. That was a great post Katya. I am an avid user of dietary supplements and have been for close to 30 years. They have definitely worked for me and were instrumental in my all-natural cancer treatment back in 2000 and 2001. But like you said, it is VERY IMPORTANT that you do your research and know what you are taking.

    One of the reasons why I have been taking supplements for all of these years has to do with my education and knowledge in which supplements work and which are more hype than fact. I got this knowledge from a doctor I had met back in the 1990s, Dr. Julian Whitaker, MD. He had a really successful clinic in California but sadly retired in 2018.

    Dr. Whitaker was one of the leading authorities when it came to healing diseases like heart disease and diabetes with only diet, exercise and certain kinds of dietary supplements. Though he retired from medical practice after 39 years of successfully treating people from all over the world, he still publishes a health blog.

    He used to publish a newsletter called Health and Healing and each month he would talk about three different kinds of supplements and provide the clinical data of studies showing how much to take for various health issues. It was in one of his newsletters that I learned of a supplement that cancer-proofs your cells by tripling the strength of the immune system.

    This supplement, which is no longer on the market (long story), and supplements of vitamin D3, Alpha Lipoic Acid, Turmeric, EGCG from Green Tea Extract, Sulforaphane from Broccoli, and Resveratrol from Grape Skin, were used in combination with a Mediterranean Diet, the juicing of a lot of my vegetables, and eating fruit. This was my all-natural treatment.

    Hippocrates said all those years ago, Let food be thy medicine. When a person starts eating a healthy diet, avoiding all kinds of sugar (except for those in fruits and veggies), takes targeted dietary supplements, and drinks clean water, the body which is a self-regulating organism will do wonderful things.

    Again this all comes down to knowledge of what supplements can and cannot do. The right ones at the correct dosages can help the body to heal itself, even of cancer, but the supplements alone CANNOT do anything. Only your immune system can heal you. I recommend everyone find a Naturopathic doctor to advise you and not do things on your own.

    Naturopathic doctors are board certified like all other conventional doctors but after graduating medical school they go on for further training in nutrition, phytochemicals, flavonoids, vitamins, minerals, herbs and plant-based nutrition. These are the types of doctors that will recommend and even use dietary supplements in their day to day practice of medicine.

    Reply
    • Hi Robert, I’m so sooo glad to hear you found a good doctor who helped you get through it. And yes, food first then, education on supplements and only then taking supplements if needed.

      Thank you so much for leaving your comment, I’m sure readers will find this info very useful.

      All best,

      Katya

      Reply
  9. Hello, Katya and you’re right,  most people do take a supplement of one kind or another.  My wife and I do as well but what I found most interesting about you post was your recommendation, (all be it from a “Source”), that everyone should take at least two dietary supplements;  D and B12., and others if you are a specific kind of eater.

    I mentioned this to my wife and she said that her tests showed that her B vitamin/s content in her blood was high so she didn’t think that adding a B12 supplement to her diet would not be a good idea.  But I’m thinking, “Different supplements for different situations?”  Do any of these B Vitamins actually Pee out of the system?

    What are your thoughts on this or where can I find more info about this?

    Wayne

    Reply
    • Hi Wayne, there are 8 different vitamins B, all of them are water soluble which means, eventually you do pee it out – that’s the natural way. And yes, each vitamin B has different areas of “work”. While all other 7 B vitamins can be found in food, Vitamin B12 isn’t or at least it’s getting scarcer and lower in quality. The best way to figure out what happening with your body considering vitamins, minerals and such is to take a blood test..otherwise you simply don’t know.

      I find pure biochemistry institutes the best address to find unbiased info – because biochemistry is about how body functions on a molecular level, what goes where and is then used to do what type of thing. No BS attached 🙂

      Hope this helps,

      Katya

      Reply

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